When was the last time you heard my voice?

Time_Dojo4_JWC.png As in, when was the last time we actually spoke on the phone or in person? I have friends who won’t answer their phone when it rings, who will not listen to voicemails with any kind of urgency, and who prefer text messaging over the real thing (the real thing being: an actual conversation).

Where is our time going, and is anyone else feeling this shift in human communication and connection? We live in a day and age where now more than ever, a person is most likely to walk into a telephone pole because he or she was looking down at her phone. This is a time where people are actually thumb soreness from excessive scrolling. Where you can be laying next to the love of your life, and yet separated by a phone screen and the lure of social media.

Help! My dad just texted me and said “LOL!”

How did he learn about LOL?!?!

I have friends that I think about often whom I rarely get to talk to, but according to Facebook I guess they are doing fine. Except Facebook is a poor outlet for showcasing the full spectrum of someone’s life, and it’s so damn easy to cover up the rough spots or to simply put your best foot forward. Are the advances in social technology also encouraging a sugar coat, and the wearing of masks?

In my lifetime, I have experienced going to the movie theater with someone who was constantly texting and checking updates on his phone (and this was a date! Clearly, the first and last date). I’ve gone out to dinner where one person taking out a phone grants permission for all, and I’m the only one looking at the menu, eagerly contemplating the risotto over the grilled scallops. I’ve also experienced talking in front an inner city high school class full of cell phones. I don’t remember making eye contact, but the teacher complimented me that I held their attention so well.

It’s a different world out there. Am I in the right time?

Now I’m not asking that we all chuck our phones out the window. I actually really enjoy using mine to take scenic photos of the places I’ve been. A photo is still worth a thousand words, and I love sharing the world I see. I also use my phone to check into places when I travel, so I have a digital record later when I’m writing about where I’ve been.

I am simply asking that we reevaluate how we spend our time with technology, and ask ourselves if by being so plugged in we are missing out on the real thing.

THE FACTS One report says smartphone users check Facebook 13.8 times a day, on average.[1] This study was done in 2013, so I can predict the numbers have only gone up between now and then. Have you ever stepped on a subway or a bus, or stood in a long line anywhere? If you look around, you’ll notice that almost everyone is on their phone.

Smart phones are becoming the easiest and quickest way to access news and friends all at once. The average user reaches for their phone when they wake up in the morning. These users check their personal emails and Facebook before they get out of bed. Many of us pick up our phones more than 1500 times each week. Average owners use their smartphone for 3 hours and 16 minutes a day.[2]

Many smartphone owners also confessed to finding themselves using their phones without realizing they’re doing so, with 2/3rds saying they have managed to log in and browse Facebook without thinking.[3] This learned behavior puts parts of our lives on autopilot.

ARE WE ADDICTED? WebMD places the topic of Technology Addiction under their Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center. Our uber-connected lives have made us virtually available at any time, at any place — the movies, the golf course, traffic lights, you name it.[4]

We are now more wired than ever. Researchers from the University of Glasgow found that half of the study participants reported checking their email once an hour, while some individuals check up to 30 to 40 times an hour.[5]

"I live and die in email," says IT manager Christopher Post in Camp Hill, Pa. "I found a PDA to be a double-edged sword. It can certainly allow you to do a lot more in any given day, but there is certainly a cost associated. I tend to lose out on a lot of other experiences, like when I should be paying attention at the dinner table.”[6]

I admit that I have seen this behavior this trickle over into the business world. Replies in my inbox mere seconds after sending an email out. I’d also be lying if I said my business line didn’t receive a random text message every now and then, by someone who didn’t get the memo that they are texting a business line.

In an age where so much is available instantly at our finger tips, how do we unplug?

HOW DO WE GET UNSTUCK? I want to have more real time conversations with people, where someone is actually making time for me, and I’m making time for them. Where we are listening and responding, not responding to text messages while also checking in on Facebook and playing opponents on Words with Friends. Am I living in a fantasy world?

I am not separate from this article. I too enjoy scrolling on Facebook and Instagram. I text friends all the time to send them a funny joke to make them smile or to let them know I’m thinking of them. But I miss the kind of connecting we used to do before these smart phones and social networks became so popular.

If like me and you’re looking to create some distance between yourself and the digital world we’re always plugged into, here are some suggestions:

  • [ ] Leave Your Phone At Home: Maybe it’s not feasible for an entire day, but how about for lunch, for dinner out with your friends, for the movie, or for going to the gym. Too much of a leap? Well then, for starters, try switching your phone to airplane mode so you’re not accessible but you can still access the time and your music.

  • [ ] Hide Your Phone: I’d recommend this for the times when you’re trying to be productive. Smartphones are an easy distraction, especially if you have the screen up and can see every time someone is messaging you.

  • [ ] Turn Off Push Notifications: Do you really need to get dinged every time someone likes a post or a tweet or a pin? No. It may even be more excited to log in at the end of the day and see you have 25 notifications waiting for you instead of logging in every hour for 1 or 2.

  • [ ] Delete Social Media Apps: I’ve done this for Facebook. If I want to log in on my phone, I have to go through my web browser. Since it’s more of a hassle to get there, I spend less time on it while I’m on my phone.

  • [ ] Get the Phone Out of Your Bedroom: I realized that the only functional reason why my phone is in my bedroom is that it also serves as an alarm clock. So I brought and old fashion alarm clock, and now if I can’t fall asleep at night, I pick up a book.

WHAT I WANT For the people I care about to call me every now and then so we can catch up, and a little effort to be made for spending time together.

[1]: How Many Times A Day Do You Check Facebook From Your Smartphone?, Pacific Business News.

[2]: How Often Do You Look?, Daily Mail

[3]: How Often Do You Look?, Daily Mail

[4]: When Technology Addiction Takes Over, WebMD

[5]: When Technology Addiction Takes Over, WebMD

[6]: When Technology Addiction Takes Over, WebMD