Today, there are more people in the world that own a mobile phone than a toilet bowl.
The mobile phone has become one of the most ubiquitous devices of technology in the 21st century.
It has penetrated into every nook and cranny of daily life.
Enriching. Transformative. Addictive. All that in the palm of our hands.
We can do almost everything on a mobile phone, and in a sense, it is asking us to do everything with it.
But here’s the thing.
The proliferation of mobile phones has also driven up an expectation of availability.
And along with that — an obligation to that availability.
Status: Always Available
Remember the times when we had pagers? We get beeps. We may return the call. Or we may not.
Alternatively, one can call our landline to reach us or leave a voicemail on our answering machine. Often the messages weren’t received for hours and even days. DAYS before we brush off the callers with an “oh-I-wasn’t-at-home” excuse.
These days, we have invited everyone to go beyond the devices at home and in the office. It is so easy to reach someone that we expect everyone to be reachable. And available. 24/7.
I know you have your phone with you, so if I text or email you now, I expect you to respond right away, or at least soon. It doesn’t matter whether you are busy (even if you are you should text to say you are). Or your phone is dead (your phone should not be dead!). Or you just don’t feel like replying (gosh you are snubbing me).
And likewise, we feel obligated to be —
We try to connect with more and inconsequently become less connected.
Meanwhile, with the ease of connectivity comes the multitasking hype. We want to focus on many tasks simultaneously, so we reply emails while rambling on our phones. We want to have multiple conversations at the same time, so we text while hanging out with friends.
Nope. We ain’t multitasking here. We are switching between tasks with insane speed. Even worse, our brains are struggling to focus while we become less connected with the people around us.
There is really no other way to connect with anyone unless you are undistracted and present in the moment. You either hop on the boat that’s leaving the shore, or you stay on shore — you can’t be available in both places.
Everyone needs a little technology-free indulgence now and again. We are all entitled to being offline, to taking a break from perpetual multi-tasking and to focus on one important thing. Stuff that matters to us, deserves our full attention and trumps our phone’s push notifications.
It is quality rather than quantity that matters. Neo over Agent Smiths. Rambo over the Burmese army. You know what I’m saying?
Constant connectivity is not connectedness.
We should make use of the connectivity of our mobile phones.
But we also shouldn’t be married to that connectivity.
There’s a fine line here, it’s a thin one, and you need to try to tap-dance merrily upon it — you want to get work done outside the office, and you don’t want to glue yourself to the screen at dinner dates. (Anyway, do check out the hilarious #DeviceFreeDinner clips by Will Ferrell.)
Alignment is key here. Be clear on when to use your phone for work and recreation, and know when it’s time to unplug and connect to the things that really matter.
Put yourself in the driver’s seat, take control and hit the road rally course — emphasize on accurate timekeeping and navigation, not on outright speed.
Raise awareness of your smartphone usage.
While there are many changes you can make to take control, it is also good to quantify how much time you spend on the phone, in order to help reduce it. John Dewey, an American philosopher, said that “a problem well put is half solved.”
How many minutes do you spend on your phone each day? 45 minutes? An hour? Chances are you will be way off in your estimation, if you don’t already realize this.
And if you are wondering if there are tacks to track your usage and give you a better picture of your daily habits, I have some very good news for you: Yes, there are actually apps that do exactly that.
Sounds counterintuitive right? But there’s an old saying in chemistry that applies here too: “like dissolves like”. A good way to dissolve your app-binge is with, well, apps.
Moment tracks how many minutes you spend on your phone, and allows you to set daily limits and alerts you if you exceed them. It will even try to force you off the phone by bombarding you with annoying notifications if you choose that setting. Moment also comes with the option to monitor your family member’s screen time from your own device.
Checky takes a different tack by tracking how many times per day you’ve checked your phone, instead of measuring by minutes. This basic app also records the location of where those usages occurred.
If you need a bat to the face every time you get distracted by your phone, Flipd is the app for you. It lets you set time to not use your phone by locking down your phone for a period of time. Even restarting the phone won’t disable this. Flipd also tailors to classrooms by measuring engagement, attendance, and polls.
Offtime helps you find the digital balance by restricting access to distracting apps and filtering calls, texts ,and notifications for a chosen period. It also tracks and provides you insights on your phone usage so you can better identify and fix your habits.