Think about it. People say we are using our phones way too much. But are we?
We are not really using our phones.
We are “using” the real world.
If you compare the percentage of time daily spent online and offline, you’ll see what I am talking about. We are literally living online — it became the new environment of where we buy and sell things, interact with each other, work and rest.
Is that normal? Of course not.
Let’s speculate on how excessive phone usage affects our own lives today. .
Phones eliminate real human connection
I recently read a post in Farnam Street about human connection. According to a book called A General Theory of Love, mammals (which humans are) are the only animals that have the ability of “limbic resonance” — the state of being in emotional sync with other creatures. This resonance makes us (humans) live longer, healthier and generally more happier. Loneliness, on the other hand, kills.
So connecting, or “resonating”, is vital for us.
But to resonate with others, you need to connect with them when it matters. It’s like holding the door for others: you don’t do it when you want to. You do it when you see an old lady carrying heavy bags from the grocery store. Timing is important when it comes to resonance. (Or you’d end up holding the door for an empty space or slam it into the lady’s face)
Constant use of your phone makes that kind of connection impossible.
You can’t resonate with your boyfriend and check your Instagram.
You can’t listen to the story told by your grandma and read the news.
And you can’t really be present at the family dinner while having an email conversation with colleagues from work under the table. You just can’t.
Phones kill the natural human connection that is vital for your well-being and happiness.
And, seriously. Saying “uh-huh” and “yeah, that’s interesting” is not resonating. Resonating is about being actually there and as Shane Parrish says: listening, summarizing, showing. You listen, you summarize in your head what the person is saying and you show your participation by asking follow-up questions that are built on what the person just said. That’s resonance.
But there’s more.
If you are having dinner with your partner and checking emails under the table, you are signaling that you would rather not be there. Your actions tell your partner’s subconscious: “Hey, I love you and all, but I’d really check my email instead of listening to your bullshit. Sorry.”
We all need to be recognized, feel needed, that we exist. Connecting with others, feeling empathy towards each other is what separates humans from lizards.
Don’t be a lizard. Go offline. Connect. Actually be there.
Your headspace is shrinking
I intentionally used the word that resembles the popular meditation app. Because that’s what we all lack in today’s distraction-driven world: headspace. A space between our thoughts — the one that ignites creativity and makes us feel calm, confident, joyful.
And meditation is not the answer. At least, not the only one.
Have you ever observed young kids in public transport? The ones with their AirPods on and eyes glued to their tiny screens? Try sneaking behind and see what they are doing (just be careful not to end up in jail for stalking people).
If you do, you’ll see how kid interact with their devices: skipping around apps, texting here, texting there, checking news feed, checking Snapchat, replying to an email, reading blogs — distraction after distraction. Such compulsive behavior is similar to that of a drug addict.
The perpetually distracted mind becomes like an oyster: reactive, impulsive, shallow.
There is a lot in common between debt, obesity and feeling overwhelmed (sometimes even having panic attacks). All of these are the results of consumption that went out of control.
Debt is about buying stuff you don’t need.
Obesity (if not a clinical disorder) is about eating food when you’re not hungry.
And the feeling of being overwhelmed is about lack of information hygiene — being distracted all the time.
I know what I am talking about — I have suffered several panic attacks over the past 6 months. And I do sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the incoming information. The thing that helped me most (besides exercising and daily meditation) is limiting phone usage. Not waking up to a screen and not going to bed with a screen.
Today, I am not opening any sort of communication apps until I am done with my daily writing and reading routine, which is about 12–1 pm. If someone needs me for something, sorry: I am disconnected.
This small change has impacted by mind profoundly: I am now able to think straight, my creativity is booming, and I generally feel great. And weirdly, if you start the day with no phone, you’ll not want to binge-text later in the day when you finally do allow yourself to communicate.
And that’s what we all need more off: offline time.
If you are working (or striving to) in a creative field (blogger, marketer, entrepreneur, etc.), do yourself a favor: limit your phone usage. Don’t strive to be available 24/7. Try not using a phone for at least 1 hour each day and see what happens (preferably the first hour of the day).
You are paid to think, and you can’t think if all you do daily is react.
Nothing beats the offline world
What can be better than seeing nature, staring into the endless blue ocean or breathing fresh air?
When was the last time you sat and just stared at nature? When was the last time you were bored? When was the last time you did nothing?
We were not designed to always be doing something and consuming information non-stop. In fact, biologically and physiologically, we haven’t changed since 100,000 years ago (actually we did, our brains only became smaller). It used to be that we hunted, gathered fruit, but that took 10–20% of our days. The rest of the time, humans sat and did nothing. Being bored is natural.
The more technology progresses, the more challenges we’ll face to stay calm, to think straight, to stay sane. I believe that it’s our job (yours) to treat the mind well: to give it time (and space) to think, to appreciate nature and to connect deeply with other people.