Friday, March 27, 2015

Looking Up: Breaking the Smartphone Habit

EcoYogini shares her recent technology addiction woes...

My hubby and I are part of the iphone club, and have been for about two years now. Our iphones are our first ever smart phones (prior to that we owned two pretty dumb phones for a few years).

I like technology. I like social media (yay Twitter!). I am definitely not a luddite.

But there's just something about constantly being glued to our smartphones that makes me uncomfortable. I suppose I'm already critical due to my job (children do not learn language from screens, please please no screen time before the age of 2yrs and limit before 5yrs! Rant over), but in the past few months three separate situations have forced me to take a closer look on how I use my smartphone. How WE use our smartphones.

Situation 1: Driving.
Driving while using/holding/looking at your smartphone is illegal in Nova Scotia. And people are finally getting ticketed. Honestly, I'm glad. I look over at a red light and I see all these people looking down. I KNOW you're not looking at your crotch dude. Distracted driving, of which cell phone use makes up a large part, is becoming the highest cause of car accidents in our country. It's serious business, and the evidence is out- it DOES cause accidents and deaths.

It was when I had to consciously coach myself to get through driving without checking that text or answering the phone that I realized that there was a problem. If I intellectually agree that smartphone use and driving is not cool, why was it so hard for me to resist that urge?

No text, tweet, facebook update or call is that urgent that it can't wait until I get to where I'm going (or, on long trips, that I can't pull over). It took a few weeks, and I still repeat the "no text is urgent" mantra, but the urge to answer is almost nil.

Situation 2: After Work
Months ago I decided that when at home I did not need to have my phone attached to my hand/hip all evening. There is something about being available 24/7 via text that irks me. So, when I get home I generally put my phone on the kitchen counter and that's where it "lives" for the night. I might grab it to tweet a few things here and there, or answer a text if I feel like it, but it has a "home". Just like our landlines used to. A simple strategy, but it works. (During work it's on vibrate and gets checked only a few times. Because I'm at work, working).

As a result I spend less time interacting with games/social media/texts on my phone and more time connecting with my family.

Unfortunately, simple modelling wasn't enough for my husband. A few weeks ago my hubby and I had to sit down and have "the talk". I started noticing that every time I looked over he was looking down at his phone. While we were getting supper ready together, eating supper, watching tv, chatting about our day, playing boardgames, even buying groceries. When did his phone become this full time attachment to his body?

When I baldly said that I almost never saw him anymore without looking at his phone, he was surprised. It had just become second nature that he doesn't even realize just how much screen time he's using. His phone constantly buzzes with notifications, which like a pavlov dog, he's become trained to respond with automaticity and without conscious thought: buzz=check phone.

He's been trying to leave his phone away from his person in the evenings, instead of keeping it in his pocket. He's shut off most of his notifications. We're recognizing that simply will power and good intentions aren't enough. We need to pre-emptively modify our environment to maximally support the desired behaviour. It hasn't been overnight, but it's been improving.

Situation 3: Technology in the bedroom.
I am a firm believer of no TV in the bedroom. I've read enough research that clearly shows the best sleep is when you shut off the tv for at least 30min before bedtime. I also apply this to non-tv screen time. I don't read emails, answer texts or check blogs before bed. Doing so makes your body tense and stimulates cognitive functioning (all no-nos for getting ready for sleep).

For months now I have been trying to get my husband to charge his cell phone downstairs. Currently, like most people, he charges it right next to the bed. His reason? "It's my clock!". Except, we have an alarm clock on my side of the bed and I am always the one that wakes up first. The reality is that from the moment he wakes up he's checking  twitter, facebook and his games while still in bed.

Recently there's been some research indicating that the different notifications during the night, even if they don't make a noise, will disrupt your sleep patterns. You don't wake up fully, but when your phone lights up (even just a bit), it alters your sleep wave patterns and brings you up from a deeper sleep. The blue light in the screen disrupts melatonin production.

So yes, he puts his phone on "sleep" mode after a certain hour... but really it just means that the first thing he does while still in bed each morning is check his phone, it follows him as he stumbles to the bathroom, takes a shower and decides on what to wear while. I come up to find him staring down at his phone while still in his bath towel.

Last night he charged his phone in the master bathroom. This weekend we are buying him an alarm clock.

All this because I look around while at restaurants, coffee shops, parks, walking down the street and all I see are people looking down instead of at each other. In order to care about our planet I am a firm believer that we need to CONNECT with it... and each other...and we can't truly do that while glued do our smartphones, looking down.

How do you use your smartphone? Have you found it challenging to put it aside? Do you have tips or tricks you use?


Diane said...

I still only have a dumb phone and I rarely turn it on. It's only for emergencies.

I do notice DH is addicted to his smartphone, though, and I resent it. I think I spend too much time on my iPad but I can only use it on wireless so it doesn't leave the house unless I am taking it on vacation and it never comes into the bedroom. It lives downstairs. Frankly I am becoming more and more bored with technology all the time. It's good for staying in touch with far away family though.

Lisa said...

I'm trying to stop taking my phone out of my purse while with other people. I will often check it a few times to make sure I don't have missed calls or important texts but I don't unlock it unless I have to.

Mindful Echo said...

OMG this is such a good post. I am SO GUILTY of being attached to my phone. It's a tough habit to break but I'm also trying to remember to plug it in on the kitchen counter and leave it for the evening, with the exceptions of making plans, etc. It's a work in progress.


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