Device Relationships – July 2017 Newsletter

There seems to be a very bright object in the sky today, and it appears that temperatures this past week have met  past record highs. This is a great relief since I already did my semi-annual clothing rotation, and all the sleeveless numbers have been languishing on the shelf. I haven’t really noticed this since my family just returned from a vacation in Alaska, where high 50’s temperatures were the norm. Now all those sweaters can go back where they belong.

No devices, no packing, just SUMMER!

I remember standing on a dock in a suburb of Sydney, Australia waiting for a little ferry to the downtown core. It was a stunner of a morning in October of 2005. That means that it was actually spring, the Jacaranda trees were in bloom and the day promised to be warm.

I turned back from the view and was amused to notice that every single person waiting with me was glued to a device, either via headphones, ear-buds or just gazing raptly at a screen.

Back then I found this very amusing.

Over the past few years I seem to have developed “an attitude” about this behavior. When walking down a populated sidewalk I make a point of letting screen blinded people walk right into me rather than moving for them. I try not to make any rude comments; I just refuse to manage their space for them, since it clearly isn’t interesting enough to hold their attention. Admittedly most people that bounce off my passing shoulder apologize…but not all. If this seems rude of me, remember that I am controlling an urge to stick my foot into their path.

We won’t dwell on drivers, as our state is about to hopefully start administering more costly consequences, if they can find enough state patrol officers to do the job. And what I really want to share is more personal than the adverse effects of distraction.

As an inherently organized person I rarely lose important things. When I do I go slightly mad and can’t function until I locate whatever it is. So I ALWAYS know exactly where my smartphone is. On the two occasions in living memory when I was out of the house without it I became insufferable to myself and everyone around me.

What is it about my relationship with this little device? I already have all sorts of rules, weirdly like those I recognize as addictive behavior:

  • It lives on my desk next to the charging station when I am home
  • It lives in a particular pocket in my bag for going out
  • In the car it goes immediately into the hands-free holder
  • All sounds are off during appointments
  • It is turned OFF at bedtime
  • It is used to communicate and get information only – no games

OK, good start. Then I read an article from Chris Bailey, one of my favorite productivity guys, who also manages his smartphone relationship closely. He points out some things that help me understand how we have come to be such a screen dependent society.

His first point is that these devices are really computers, not phones. DUH, you may say, but consider that their range of use is why we allow them to hijack our attention, nonstop throughout the day. Like a computer we can use our phones to write, read, research, connect over distances, set alarms, run programs, and play games.

The problem Bailey stresses is that they do not allow us to make meaningful real life connections with people. With the exception of looking at each other’s photos, a room full of screens is usually a room full of isolated individuals.

Key Idea: Isolated from Each Other.

This is the real issue, each of those phones can be said to connect the user to others via email, text, social media and so forth…but at the cost of where they are in the moment.

Just look around any public space, even restaurants where connection over a meal is the point. You’ll see screens at faces, everywhere.

When I got to the part where Bailey lists his rules for treating his smart-phone like a computer instead of as an extension of his body I was charmed to see that our lists are very similar.

My new additional rules which add or modify his:

  • Do not remove from bag and place on restaurant tables unless to share information
  • Don’t ever carry it in my hand walking down the street – STOP and move to the side when looking at maps or navigating.
  • NEVER make or answer personal calls which force people to listen to a one sided conversation. This has been proven to trigger homicidal behavior in listeners!!
  • Choose when to be available and turn off alerts otherwise

I hope this article provides some new ways to consciously participate in a positive and supportive relationship with your smartphone.

Since ideally the primary connections in your life are with warm blooded members of the species, ones that touch you and don’t require Wi-Fi.

Happy Summer!!

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