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Monday, December 26, 2011

Who's the Boss -- You or Your Cell Phone?

I love technology. I am a geek of sorts. But I am increasingly bothered by what I believe is excessive cell phone dependence. We've all heard about the accidents caused by distracted drivers, train or machine operators. However, I see increasing problems in the ability to be present to people, to events, to feelings, to live real life, and to simply pay good attention. People are giving up their power, energy and presence to cell phones.

Cell phone behaviors that prompt an article like this!

  • One day I was at a small wedding of just family and very close friends of the bride and groom. At one point before the service started, I counted 10 people on their cellphones, talking, texting, reading email.
  • Another time, I was at a funeral and someone was on their cellphone at the graveside.
  • Yesterday at Christmas services, an announcement was made before the service to silence cell phones and almost everyone in my row did not just check their phone, but almost all had to silence their phone at that time.
  • I was with a group of friends catching up over the holidays at a dinner at someone's home. A person, whose husband and child, were there with us, was on her cell phone for over 30 minutes in the middle of everyone socializing. It was not a work emergency. She was simply checking text messages.
  • I had a person in my office for counseling who would always put her phone out on the small coffee table when she arrived. I thought that the purpose was to be more comfortable, until I saw her glancing at the cell phone to see any text message had arrived. (That was the first and last time that happened with me!)
  • I was talking with someone not along ago who was complaining about his spouse and her cell phone. It rang at night and if it wasn't ringing, it was beeping and buzzing any time she had a text or an email. Usually she would be so distracted, she just had to see who it was and respond. He was so frustrated because they didn''t have a lot of time together and then the cell phone was a like a third party that was always with them.
  • And then there is the person in the movie theater, who in spite of announcements of no cell phones on texting, decides he or she just can't wait one more minute in the middle of the movie, or sometimes in the last 15 minutes to check texts or emails. With stadium seating, the phone light shines right in your eyes if you are 1-3 rows up from them. Although I haven't done it yet, I have wanted to walk down, snatch the phone out of their hand and stomp on it!
One of the issues I often see in my office with couples -- even before the days of cell phones -- is one complaining that the other person doesn't make him/her a priority, or that even when they are in the house, they are not 'present'. It feels like their spouse/partner is 'never there.' What do you think it communicates to the people you are with, when you turn to your phone to check messages, email, to take a call, or to text in their presence? I once heard "where your time, your energy, and your thoughts take flight to, there is what you most value in your life."

People are missing the people in their lives who love them, and whom they love, in favor of hoped for connection with their social or work networks -- or their favorite app -- or their sports scores.

We are making ourselves a society with Attention Deficit Disorder and a society with poor boundaries. Both of those things can lead to bigger problems down the road. Cell phone dependence splits our attention and focus. We never are really where we are!

So why are people constantly on their phones? Is it that virtual reality is more important than the people or event in front of you? Does it make you feel needed, wanted, important because you get texts or calls? Does it give other people the impression that you are so important because you have to have your cell phone or blue tooth attached and ready constantly? Will the world end if you turn it off? Tell me what you think!

Here are some signs I think indicate that someone needs to change some of their cell phone habits.
  1. You cannot be with friends/family/or social events without having it on and checking to see if you have the next text or email.
  2. You're disappointed if you check it and no one has contacted you.
  3. You look at it when you are talking with other people in real life.
  4. You feel uncomfortable and even a little anxious if you turn it off for the evening or during the day on a weekend.
  5. People in your life have complained or made comments about how much you are on the phone.
  6. You get upset of you forget your cell phone.
  7. When listening to family or friends, you are wanting to check your mail or messages.
  8. You think you have to be available to everyone 24/7.
  9. You expect other people to be available to take your call or message 24/7.
  10. Afraid you will miss something if you are not online.
  11. You have not yet set up ' cell phone free' times in your life.
  12. "I have to always have it on for work."

In Part 2, I'll list some of my suggestions. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.


Anonymous March 6, 2012 at 2:20 PM  

Honestly, this post sounds like an "old person" complaining. Do you really need to use 26 lines to explain how cell technology bugs you? Everyone knows to what level it bothers them and reading your list causes more anxiety instead of being open minded and integrative about the matter, setting boundaries and getting on with life.

Mark May 21, 2012 at 4:50 AM  

This is some great relationship advice. I think so many people get caught up in their own feelings, they don't consider the boundaries that they may be crossing themselves.

Sage Therapy Center June 1, 2012 at 6:48 AM  

The best I can think of so as not to be too dependent on technology is to learn to control yourself, and put in mind that there are so many things that can be done without them.

Anniversary Presents July 31, 2012 at 8:02 AM  

Cellphones do have its advantages and disadvantages. Specially now that we can do almost anything with the use of cellphones and that almost everyone has it. How we use it is up to us, don't let something ruin our relationship with others.

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