Can You Put Down Your Phone?

Our devices are addictive.

Disconnecting from your device for just one hour every day equals 21,900 minutes over the course of a year.

In typical fashion, my daughter’s high school friends gathered around the kitchen island talking, laughing and playing on their phones. But then something surprising happened. As the phone gazing slowly took over one of the kids declared it was time for the phone stack game. Everyone had to stack their phones, screen side down, in the middle of the island and whoever checked their phone first, lost.

I wanted to jump up and down, do a little happy dance, cheer and high five... but having (mostly) mastered the art of parenting teenagers, I instead muttered “awesome idea” and walked out of the room.

Our devices are addictive.

Just like a slot machine (considered the crack cocaine of gambling) our phones work on an intermittent reinforcement schedule which keeps us coming back for more.

Think about it. Whether you’re checking email, texts, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, a newsfeed, clickbait or any of over a million possible applications, you are rewarded randomly. Sometimes there is something interesting. But not always. And we never know when “interesting’ is going to happen. That is intermittent reinforcement at work and it’s like crack to our brains.

Just like a rat given a reward on a varying schedule, we learn to crave the reward of possibly seeing something interesting and the dopamine hit that goes with it. We also dread the idea of missing out. So we check in, again and again and again.

It takes time for common sense and etiquette to catch up with new technology. Given that smartphones are still in their infancy and that we’re still in the isn’t this cool stage of adaptation means it’s up to us to provide the common sense, just as my daughter’s friend did by proposing the phone stack game.

If we’re going to intelligently manage our time in our ultra-connected world we need to take control of our reaction to and dependence on our devices so we can control our behavior rather than having it control us.

The phone stack game is a start.

So is simply walking away from your phone. Literally.

When I arrive home I plug my phone in to charge in the mudroom and walk away. This means I have to physically get up to check my phone, which greatly reduces my desire to check it for updates.

My family’s norm is also no phones at the table during dinner and we seldom, if ever, take our phones upstairs where our bedrooms are located. By leaving our phones downstairs we’ve created what is now commonly referred to as a digital curfew, which has been shown to both improve sleep and decrease stress.

Another friend, at the advice of his coach, instituted ‘No Phone Sundays. He actually turns off his phone for 24 hours every week. And it’s worked. He hasn’t missed anything of importance, his stress level has decreased, his happiness has increased and he’s carved out technology free space for himself and his family. All by simply switching his phone off.

Turning off your phone before you walk into a restaurant or a meeting is another simple and effective way to create digital free, connection building space in one easy to implement step. It also has the added bonus of saying to the person (or people) you are with, “you’re important to me” without ever saying a word.

And of course, in my humble opinion, cars should always be phone free space. But if you can’t bring yourself to take it that far, at least declare carpool time phone free.

If none of the above suggestions appeal to you and you’re still contemplating holding on tightly to your phone 24/7 consider this:

We have 525,600 minutes each year. Disconnecting from your device for just one hour every day gains you 21,900 minutes over the course of the year.

So if you’ve ever had the thought, if I just had 10 minutes to relax, read, take a walk, rest or play… you just found 21,900 instead.