Research continues to accumulate on the increasing power of cell phones to consume more and more of our lives. One study, conducted by having volunteers install a tracking app on their phone, revealed that users were on the phone an average of 85 times a day. In reality, many of you are looking at your phone over 100 times a day.
Hyper-connected? Losing 23 days a year to our phones?
It’s hard to imagine, but on average, we stare at our phones for 23 days a year. For many of your children, it’s much more like 40-50 days a year that is given to a screen the size of a small envelope. And let’s not be surprised that the amount of time consumed is increasing year by year. One study suggests an increase in usage of over 40% between 2014 and 2015.
So yes, it’s safe to say: We are hyper-connected. And in doing so, we are paying the price by giving more and more of our life to our phones.
Who is really controlling our lives? The lives of our children?
The more we give out our emails, our phone numbers, and the more apps we install, then the more likely our phone is making that little ‘ding’ or vibrating on the counter. With each little signal that a message is waiting, we appear like little mice jumping instantly at the sound.
This is happening not once or twice or 10 or 12 times. But dozens of times a day. For a good portion of the time, we surrender our attention to events that others control. Not us.
Think about it. Someone else’s bad day suddenly becomes our problem. Someone else misreading an email is now our problem to solve. Someone else is bored, so they bring their boredom to our lives.
And it still gets worse. A photo from a distant relative sends us a signal that pulls us in. A marketing email catches our attention over something we clearly don’t need. Our daughter texts us that she needs to go shopping while she is in study hall.
So again, who is in control of our lives? Who is grabbing our attention constantly? Yes, we signed up for this. We let our kids sign up for this. But we have surrendered control to these outside forces. We have surrendered control because we fail to set limits, and it is eating up our lives.
Constantly distracted. Constantly making decisions.
Every time the phone ‘dings,’ we have a decision to make: respond or not respond? Funny or serious tone? Contemplate or react quickly? Bring someone else into the loop or not? Do some research first, or go with your gut? Check the schedule or trust your memory?
Of course, the list goes on. This is only touching the surface of the infinite ways that we call upon our decision-making ability. Here’s the problem: research suggests that we arise each morning with only a certain amount of decision-making‘ juice.’ Every decision, no matter how small, consumes some of this ‘juice.’ For many of us, we feel overwhelmed and inept at making large decisions. We are stressed out. We can’t focus on the important stuff. Sleep suffers. Happiness disappears.
Am I blaming all this on your phone? Of course not. But we can’t deny the growing impact of bringing more distractions and more decisions into daily life. It’s a fact that this is stressful, and all these decisions deplete us. And it depletes our children. Without clarity about this, the snowball continues to gather momentum, pulling in more and more of our attention forcing us into more and more insane and unnecessary decisions. Others choose much of this for us. And our lives inevitably feel more and more out of our control. What to do?
Try losing your cell phone for a few hours a day, or perhaps a whole day or two, and notice what happens. Life goes on. This I promise you. And once the bizarre trepidation that you can’t survive without it has passed you WILL feel better, calmer, and more in control.
And remember: Don’t trust that voice in your head…that voice that creates that sudden surge of fear and trepidation. “Oh my… what if I miss a call? What is something important happens?”
That same voice is the voice that tortures you through the endless chattering, both from the outside world and the ‘inside’ world.
Detach. Disconnect. Create Space.
Only fear will pull you back from this challenge, and it is not based on reality. Test it. Detach and disconnect, but do it long enough to create some sense of spaciousness in your life. And, consider ‘imposing’ this upon your children.
Their very reaction will tell you the power the phone is having upon them. You would think you are threatening life itself. Don’t trust the reaction. Allow that to pass.
Instead, be curious. Be open. Be interested in what life feels like when you are not constantly crowded in by the demands, input, marketing, drama, inquiries of the world outside. Most of this is beyond your influence or control and creates the illusion of connectedness. This is a lie.
You will feel more connected creating space from this illusion. Why? Because space allows you time to connect with what is real, what is within your influence, and with what matters most.
Do not misread this article, please. It is not intended to suggest that we abandon our phones.
Instead, this is about you. What do you really want? Do you want others to have that much control over your time, your energy, your emotions…and your life?
It’s your choice. Let’s all just have our eyes open about the consequences of what we are choosing on a daily basis.