Drama much, amirite?
I have been tossing this theory around in my head recently that kind of started with the question of phones around kids, are we telling them we don’t love them, but sometimes gotta answer calls, etc. And I’ve come up with some things I’ve noticed SO.MANY.ADULTS doing that I really think is the culprit of this idea that if you are on your phone around your children you are telling them you don’t love them.
The research is there, for sure, that media use decreases productivity. There are books and studies and suggestions, Do Not Disturbs, lots of methods to try and bring back some of our productivity, but I feel like I don’t read as much about attention to other humans.
First, there are lots of ~ways~ to be on your phone around kids or other people. There’s the filming everything and then ~onphone~ to upload or share or text it. There’s fully disengaged, either working or social-ing or reading. There’s a middle ground, SUPER focused on your people but quick stops to answer a text, very focused on getting the task done, phone put away then immediately back to real life.
And then there is the checking.
- Checking social media alerts.
- Checking email.
- Checking the weather.
- Checking schedules.
- Checking package deliveries.
- Checking texts.
- Checking Twitter.
The question I had about phone times with kids came from realizing what I’m doing with my phone when I’m around people – the “it’s on the table and I know it’s there” kind of glance every 30 seconds or so to juuuuuust be sure no one has texted me about sending a million dollars but only right now.
There is something in our brains that is just utterly convinced that if we aren’t available to our devices at all times we will miss the most important thing ever, even when we aren’t expecting anything important to happen.
I think we ALL have really good intentions of, say, being engaged with our children but also kind of missing out on other stuff. And so we attempt to do both at the same time. But what ends up happening, and I know this because it happens to me too, is that we do both in a garbage way.
With me, I’ll commit to not OPENING anything on my phone but staring at a bunch of alerts start to kill me and then I feel guilty for wanting to open them rather than continue to conversation I’m in, the game I’m playing, or whatever it is.
What I believe, though, is just in that brief ~check,~ the glancing down to see what you’re missing, that our focus is shifted off the present for long enough that it’s really hard to get back. It can happen in an instant, I’ve seen it time and time again.
The “ok, where were we,” moments in tech-addled life that can really, really mess with a deep connection. That’s my funny-not-funny life-ruining realization. Given that phones and other tech isn’t going anywhere, I don’t see this problem getting any better without a little extra thought on our parts.
Ok, let’s do an activity. It’s about my life. You’ll love it.
I had the idea for this post about 3 weeks ago. The thoughts had been swimming around in my head, I’d talked about the concept with a variety of people, gotten some more examples, read a boat load, etc.
Planned a few days to get the words out, got side tracked, then about a week later (as I type this) was like ~this is the day you will write about the checking.~ There was a time during the day I knew I’d do it, ample time to get it all out, and I knew that I just needed to start writing, because once I did the words would flow and maybe they would be useful to someone else, and that’s worth some thought and effort!
- But then. As I prepared to write this I needed to make some coffee so I did that, along with breakfast, and I did a few dishes while I was at it. Fine.
- And then as part of this post I had to screenshot my home screen, so HAHAHAHA look at this lovely real life example of what I’m talking about. Checked everything.
- And then I saw a post it on my desk with a budget number we are trying to hit, so I spent a hot sec adding up how much we’ve already spent this month on this thing, and then kind of worried about that for a sec but actually we’re OK.
- But that reminded me that I needed to tell friends who stayed with us last weekend how much I spent on groceries, they offered to chip in and I say yes to things like that when it makes sense.
- So I added those things up.
- And then texted them.
- And then got an alert from someone quasi famous on Insta so immediately wrote back to their comment because I’m not a monster.
- And then texted a friend about a playdate this afternoon because our kids are maybe sick but maybe not?
- And then checked my venmo account because ooohhh monayyy’s comin’ in!
And look at all that up there: It’s all real, 100% happened while I was trying to write these important words, because I do think that distraction is important to how our relationships play out, with children and everyone.
And what I’m coming to realize is this: checking our devices is kind of the gateway to every other tech-related issue that we know exists.
- Checking our phones leads to diminished focus on what we are doing.
- Checking our phones leads to missing important things that people say.
- Checking our phones yields lower productivity.
- Checking our phones is utterly awful for memory and overall cognition.
Of course, there are programs and articles and lists detailing how to stay more productive, how to batch work for efficiency, how to be present in the moment.
I think, for me, the key is to be more mindful of what I’m doing with my phone. Kind of like people who try to stop biting nails or touching their face, they do those things so often mainly because they don’t know they’re doing them so often.
Same with phones.
Because what I think happens with all of this checking, is that even though we are ON our phones as much, we are glancing away, metaphorically, from our own lives enough that we end up feeling as though we’ve had no real connections at all, whether or not that’s actually true. Because the length of time we have spent with others is so heavily fragmented by these little glances away from real life.
The checking is causing us to check out, that sort of thing.
In a perfect world, I’d have someone follow me around without my knowledge and check the number of times I just glance at my phone. And then I’d love to know the percentage of time I use my phone to complete entire things, such as “think of something, look at it, do a task, done with it,” rather than a tangential “think of something, look at it, get distracted, forget for one hour until the OMG MEANT TO DO THAT thought pops up, lather, rinse, repeat, do not get in eyes.”
I imagine the number of times I look at my phone for nothing is high and the percentage of time I have clear, linear thoughts that align with my phone usage is low.
I also wonder, though, if I could correct those two things would I feel more clear-headed? Productive? Less scattered and more easily able to identify what I accomplished each day, start to finish?
I have a hunch that if I actually thought about what I am doing and why I am doing it every single time I looked at my phone, I would feel more calm, less anxious, and, maybe, happier.
What do you think?