I’m convinced that most humans (at least in the western world) are living a subpar life due to constant distractions. Our social media, work from phone, distracted world is literally robbing us of engaging fully with the world around us. Those of you born before 1980 can easily remember a time when phones were not a constant companion, replacing dogs as man’s best friend. You remember the “good ole days” when life was about face to face engagement with friends and family and not about staying virtually connected and gluttonized on information.
I recently heard Timothy Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, discuss a study where subjects who were stoned scored better on tests than their sober counterparts who were distracted with their phones. The awareness of this distraction epidemic was recently furthered by the excellent Netflix docudrama film The Social Dilemma.
“The film explores the rise of social media and the damage it has caused to society, focusing on its exploitation of its users for financial gain through surveillance capitalism and data mining, how its design is meant to nurture an addiction, its use in politics, its effect on mental health (including the mental health of adolescents and rising teen suicide rates), and its role in spreading conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate and aiding groups such as flat-earthers.” – Wikipedia.
It’s very telling that the founders and high level executives of several social media companies do no allow their own children to have smart phones or engage in social media.
So, what do we do? The good news is that you are still in control. You can be as free from distraction and engaged with your life as you want to be. Here are a few practical things you can do.
- Remove social media apps from your phone. Easy to say; hard to do.
- Turn off anything that beeps, rings or buzzes unless you absolutely HAVE to be immediately reachable. Anything else can wait.
- Batch emails! Email replaced the Memo in the workplace. It’s not IM or text messaging. Most people respond too quickly to emails, and thereby teaching others that this is normal for you. Only check your email 2-3 times a day, and set up a notification or signature saying so.
- Set up healthy boundaries on technology use. One of my clients, a CTO for a software company, won’t allow any kind of tech in his children’s bedrooms. You could also set times of the day or even days of the week to go on a technology fast. Crazy, right?
- Don’t put your phone on the table when eating. Even when turned upside down the simple presence of a phone has negative psychological effects on you and others around you.
- Take a break. Go for a walk, a drive, a date WITHOUT your phone. You’ll be amazed how hard and liberating this is.
- Choose to be “old school.” Get a flip phone or make your phone a “dumb” phone by crippling it of anything that is not phone, text or possibly email (& only if you absolutely have to have that). Again… liberating!
- Breaking News! Literally, take a break from News. Technology has allowed us to stay continually informed on everything, any where, at any time. Most stories don’t directly impact us anyway. It’s often just noise. To control your FOMO just realize that anything truly significant you will hear about in regular conversations throughout the course of the day.
- Slow down. Technology has driven the speed of EVERYTHING in life. Leave earlier than you have to and drive in the slow lane. Just enjoy feeling your pulse slow down as you enjoy the ride. Similarly, pick the longest checkout line at the store and don’t look at your phone. You may actually notice the magazine headlines or have a spontaneous conversation with another human. Weird.
- Be bored. Remember that? Boredom? It’s actually okay to be bored. Choose to be without any technological distraction and allow yourself to daydream, talk to a stranger, be creative/artistic. Be human again.
So try some or all of these. You’ll be amazed just how much life you’ve been missing.