I have a confession to make. I’ve been getting in a lot of trouble for my smartphone usage with my family. And I know deep in my heart I’m setting a terrible example for my children.
The embarrassing thing is I know better. I’ve spoken about the risks overdependence on connectivity at CLE conferences. I’m big reader of Nicholas Carr, one of whose book The Shallowstalks about the negative effects of overindulging in our online world. I shared an article on Facebook that advised people to “Read the news once a day, as opposed to hitting your Twitter feed 50 times a day like a chimp in a 1950s experiment.”
I know for a fact I’m not alone in my smartphone addiction (see the publication of The Power of Off). And I probably do better managing it than a lot of people. I see my daughter’s friends, and some of them have fallen entirely down the rabbit hole with their iPhones. Any parent of a tween or teenager will tell you there is no single worse punishment for them than the confiscation of their phone.
I’m on the receiving end, too. How rude is it when you’re in a meeting or eating a meal with someone when they fiddle with their phone and don’t pay attention to you? What’s scarier than being in the car with a driver who picks up their phone? And how pathetic does it look when you see a group of people at a restaurant together and they’re all on their phones? Not that I judge. #justkiddingbutnotreally.
It’s just so damn hard to put down your phone. First of all, I crave the constant feed of emails, Tweets, and Facebook like a Pavlovian dog. I have to fight the urge to research anything that pops into my mind on Wikipedia. And that doesn’t even begin to touch what’s going on in our national politics these days: It’s hard to take your eyes off of the drama playing out in Washington. It’s like a big, fiery car crash.
Additionally, I can make all sorts of excuses for my behavior. I run a software company, and that requires a certain level of attentiveness to my employees needs and commentary in the market. I have a wife and kids and all of the corresponding whirlwind activity that brings.
But I will tell you this: the more disconnected I am, the happier I am. I often take digital vacations where I don’t touch my device. Unfortunately, that leaves me in a bit of an all-or-nothing approach. So I find myself making a resolution, not on January first, but on an arbitrary day in March: To be a better smartphone citizen. And I have to be honest, I’ve experimented with not eating meat and that is a helluva lot easier.
Here are the rules I am imposing on myself for healthier smartphone habits. I hope there is someone out there reading this that would like to embrace these changes as well so that I can have a support group. If you’re out there, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and… we can somehow get in touch without violating one of the following tenets:
1) Smartphone usage is OVER for the day an hour before bedtime. For me, this means it is plugged in NOT in the bedroom at 10PM.
2) Smartphone is not present at meals. Period (I’m actually pretty disciplined with this one).
3) Check the news no more than twice a day.
4) Check social media no more than twice a day.
5) Phone is out of reach while driving.
It seems daunting, almost impossible. I am keeping tabs, trying to string the calendar days together like Jerry Seinfeld, and I’ll let you know how it goes.