Over the weekend, I read an interesting article from about a month ago: Stop Googling, Let’s Talk. The author, Sherry Turkle, had a lot of great points about how we use cell phones and how it’s changed our interactions.
For example, apparently there is an etiquette “rule of three”: for any conversation with five or more people, you take turns looking at your phones so that there are always at least three people paying attention. The worst part is, I read that and thought, “what a great idea!” 🙁
The piece makes some really great points about how phones take away even from solitude – and I am definitely a victim of that. If I am waiting in line or waiting for an elevator, there’s a good chance I’ve pulled out my phone to catch up on some interesting articles on my Feedly. I’ve always thought it was practical of me to make good use of that “wasted” time, but maybe all I’m taking away is my own inability to concentrate when something isn’t beeping and flashing and otherwise demanding my attention.
The biggest takeaway for me, though, was a study referenced about a quarter of the way through the piece:
“Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel. People keep the conversation on topics where they won’t mind being interrupted. They don’t feel as invested in each other. Even a silent phone disconnects us.”
Recently, I’ve made a conscious effort to be on my phone less when I’m out to dinner or hanging out with friends. Adam says he’s noticed a big improvement, so I thought I was on the right track. However, while I check my phone much less frequently than I once did, I always do have my phone close at hand. Sometimes it’s on top of my purse, sometimes it’s in my lap, and sometimes it’s right on the table next to me. With all of those positions being so close (and so top of mind), it’s likely that my phone is having an impact all the same.
I think it’s time to start leaving the phone in my car (mayyyyyybe) or at least burying it deep in my purse (much more likely). If I’m really present with my friends (or at the office, or wherever), I should be able to overcome the FOMO on whatever random messages are coming in. Chances are, it’s something that can be easily dealt with later – when I can make message-checking my top priority instead of part of a litany of multitasking. Everyone/everything wins!