I recently came across a CNN article that urges, “Be polite and put your smart phone down.” The article was sobering because it reminded me of the many ways I have allowed my smart phone (a 3G iPhone) to worm its way into my personal life like a virus — even altering my behavior in subtle but important ways. Consider this:
- Recently when I woke up for work, I swear my first conscious thought was, “Did I remember to charge my iPhone last night?” Not, “I’m hungry” or “Time to hop into the shower.”
- My walk to and from the commuter train takes a little longer. Why? Because I’m mentally distracted as I read my email on my iPhone while I’m walking. (At least I remember to watch where I’m going before I cross the street — so far.)
- I’m getting sloppy. The “pardon the typos while I respond to your message on my iPhone” mentality is taking hold. I’ve become more tolerant of writing gaffes than I should be.
- Although I have never texted or checked email while driving, I’ve done so at lengthy stop lights or while waiting for a train to cross the tracks in front of me. Some might say that at least I’m using down time productively. But too often I’m jolted back to reality by a car honking behind me when the light turns green or the train passes, and I’m still goofing around with my phone. Not good — just begging for an accident. And on top of that, whatever happened to using down time to meditate, pray, or enjoy the time-honored tradition of counting box cars? Does anyone do that anymore or are we all heads-down now?
- More than once my daughter has asked me to turn off my iPhone when we are together. We have a rule now: phones off when we are together unless I get “permission” and explain why I need the phone on (say, an absolutely unavoidable issue has arisen at work, and it’s better if I use my phone quickly to dispatch with the problem so that we can get on with our lives.)
I am most bothered by the way I have allowed my phone to intrude on my family time. I don’t want my daughter remember her dad as someone she shared with a device while she was growing up. I certainly don’t want my wife to feel that way about her husband, either.
Recently it was suggested to me that I simply must accept reality: we live in a world where we must multi-task mentally all the time especially when our attention is divided among so many conversational channels (Facebook, Twitter, email, phone, etc.). It’s just reality. But I don’t know about that. Surely we have not reached a point where our personal devices constantly need our attention and time like another family member?
This Labor Day I’m going to do something that I hope you will, too: I’m turning my phone off unless I need to use it to call a family member or friend — the way we used to use phones. Maybe I should use my quiet time this weekend re-reading Cell, the Stephen King novel about a signal emitted through mobile devices that turns people into lunatics. It’s a fascinating read, by the way — published in 2006, the book feels more relevant with each passing year.
Whatever I do with my phone turned off, I suspect the world will be just fine without me while I’m gone.