I’ve been aiming to write this article for a while, but I was too busy checking my cell phone.
A joke, but not really. Have you ever thought about how much time you spend on your cell phone and how much of your focus is dedicated to that hand-held device? Statistics show that Americans spend an average of 5-6 hours on the phone daily, not including business-related work.
TechJury, who did an extensive study on how Americans use their smartphones, reports these alarming statistics:
On average, each of us checks our phone 63 times a day.
86% of us go online daily through our mobile phone.
Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are the most popular social media forums and consume much of our time on our phones.
69% of us prefer to review items online (and on our phones) before making any purchase, rather than talking to a store employee.
So let’s recap. The vast majority of us use our phones all day every day. We read reviews, shop, make dinner reservations, scroll social media apps, watch movies and TV shows on the go, read our news, read this magazine, play Wordle, text, and even make the occasional call, all on our phones. All. Day. Long.
What is all of this screen time doing to us? Well for starters, it is taking away from the intimacy in our lives. Where we once gave all of our attention to the person standing before us, or sitting next to us, or eating dinner with us, we are now tapping, reading, and uh-huh-ing when we notice the other person’s lips moving. How much aren’t we hearing? How much aren’t we seeing? How many activities do we not have time for because we’re spending 5 hours a day on our phones?
We’ve lost our ability to just be, to soak in the moment and concentrate on one thing at a time, and if you think about it, that’s scary. What does it say about us that we can’t even work out, take a walk, or watch a movie without our phones in our hands and without frequent checks to make sure we haven’t missed anything?
I’ve watched exercisers at the gym pull out their phones in the middle of a class, sweat dripping onto the screen, just to make sure they haven’t missed a text in the last 10 minutes. Our obsession is real.
This leads to real problems, like someone we love feeling neglected or ignored because we put our cell phones before them. There’s nothing that drives my husband crazier than when I respond to a text while he’s talking to me. In my mind, I’m thinking, “This will just take a second,” but in his mind, he’s thinking, “What I’m saying right now isn’t important and certainly isn’t valued.” Every time that thought goes through a loved one’s mind, it’s another chink in the armor, another tug that pulls two people apart.
The experts advise that if we are worrying about losing intimacy with others because we are too distracted by our phones, there are steps we can take to minimize that distraction. The easiest is to turn off notifications for our social media apps. That way, we’re not tempted to open the app every time we see a pop-up or hear a ding. Second, we need to become friends with our Do Not Disturb buttons. Whether we are working or in the middle of a conversation or having dinner with friends or hearing about our kids’ day at school, we should hit that button and turn off the rest of the world for a few moments or hours. Simply put, we need to go back to the days when living life was more important than staring at a screen.
It is a form of arrogance to believe that we are so important that we need to be accessible to everyone at all times, that if we give our attention to one person, the rest of the world will suffer greatly. We’re really not that important.
The people who are most dear to us deserve our attention way more than anything online, and I say this as the person who wrote the article you’re reading online. Keep reading! But do it during your alone time, not when someone you love is talking.