Last week I was sitting in the waiting room at the optometrist’s office. We were a total of 4 people. An older couple and a younger woman, plus myself. I was the only one without a cellular device in hand. During the half hour that I waited, only one woman came up for air when she slipped into another room for a moment. Upon returning to her seat, she went straight back to scrolling on her phone without acknowledging her husband, who in turn, did not even lift his head when she sat down.
Watching all of this unfold got me thinking of about our addictions. Specifically, cell phones and social media.
How many of us automatically reach for our cellular devices as soon as we open our eyes first thing in the morning ?
When I was working, that’s exactly what I would do !
A few years ago, pre covid days, I was attending a conference in Vancouver. Life was as always, super intense and I was feeling absolutely overwhelmed. In my rush to get down to the main lobby to catch a cab to the airport, I accidentally dropped my cellular device in the toilet. Initially, the resulting splash and kerplunk sent me into a wild frenzy. What the sam hill was I going to do without that gadget that had literarily become an extension of myself ?? When I arrived home, I frantically looked for my phone so that I could put it into a bag of rice. As the universe would have it, I couldn’t find it. It had literally disappeared. I searched desperately, to no avail. As the days passed by, I was overcome with a sense of ease and realized that without my cellular, I was unreachable. It felt absolutely amazing. I managed to go for at least 3 weeks before purchasing a new one. If it hadn’t been for my dear children nagging at me to just get on with it and buy one already, I may have held out even longer. Thinking back, I truly savoured that time in my life. Freedom at its finest 🙂
Back when I was sick with Covid, I tucked away an article from the Globe and Mail July 24, 2021 Saturday edition – “Put me down…Now! Three rules for curbing your phone use and getting your life back ” by Benjamin Leszcz
I love this guy !
In the article, Leszcz points out that “Alcohol norms remind us that it’s often undesirable to be drunk. Phone norms should remind us that it’s often undesirable to be distracted. Put differently, the cost of alcohol can be measured in lost sobriety; the cost of phones can be measured in lost attention.”
Rule No. 1 – When paying attention to other people, we should not use our phones. According to Leszcz, phones don’t just diminish our performance as friends; they also make us inferior parents. A university if Michigan study found that our phones also make us impatient. The more deeply caregivers are absorbed in their phones,” the more likely they are to respond harshly to their children’s attention seeking behaviour.” Leszcz suggests that “Phones should never appear at a meal or at a bar. Never in a meeting. And never in the bedrooms of our children, who deserve at least one place in the world where they can enjoy our undivided attention.”
Rule No. 2 – Put away our phones. An Oxford study claims “our phones exact a “brain drain” just by virtue of being in the room. “So any time we want to really use our brains – to work, to learn, to read – we should put our phones away.
Rule No. 3 – When paying attention to nothing at all, we should put away our phones.
Leszcz brings light to the sad reality that ” Nowadays we text in line at the supermarket. We listen to podcasts while we wash the dishes. We scroll instagram while we pee. Our phones join us at the park, the dock and the hiking trail. They have robbed us of the moments we could be free, letting our minds rest or wonder.” Leszcz suggests that our phones make solitude elusive; by stealing our attention, they rob us of the space to be with our thoughts; to process experiences and memories; to build a stable sense of self.” He strongly recommends in any moment in which we are doing nothing that we should actually do nothing. If we are visiting places with great regenerative power like in nature for example, that we should definitely rid ourselves of our devices.
This past December when I was visiting the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores with my family, we spent a few blissful hours soaking in a natural hot spring. The scenery was exquisite and the atmosphere still and calming. As I sat there quietly, taking it all in, I noticed a young couple close by. They both had their phones in hand and were busy taking selfies. I was blown away. First of all I was worried that they might drop them in the water. In hindsight this might have been a good thing ! The entire time we were there, not once did they engage in conversation or take a look at anything other than the screens of their cellular devices. It was quite remarkable. Enough so that when I read rule No. 3, I thought of them !
Leszcz believes that “Deep down inside we all want to ditch our phones, because we know that when we do, we clear the path to achieve our most vital aspirations; to build loving relationships. To realize our creative and intellectual potential. To find peace.”
So there you have it peeps. I’m not saying that we should all drop our phones in the toilet because of course, they do serve a purpose and come in handy during times of need. I am however suggesting that we all be more mindful and make a conscious effort to implement these three simple rules into our daily lives.
When you wake tomorrow morning, before reaching for that cellular device, breathe deeply and create space for stillness. Take a few moments to reflect on the gift of life and what you are grateful for. New day, new beginning, new habits ?
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