I counted 24 out of 31. 31 people is a little light for NYC standards, but a solid number for a Wednesday midday subway ride from midtown Manhattan to Long Island City, Queens, NY.
But 24 people, or 77%, eyes on their phones, headphones in their ears – myself included #24 – is pretty staggering when you think about it. I personally was listening to a podcast while answering some emails. It made me think, where are we going?
I made it a point to take note of how many people were buried in their phones whenever I got on a subway the next few days, and yep, I’d say about 82% on average. No fancy statistics here, but we like to think a fair approximation :).
Regardless it begs some interesting questions, what are we missing out on? Where will we be in 10 years? In 2011, approximately 35% of Americans owned smartphones. As of January 2018? 77%! In just 7 years, the population more than doubled. Between the ages of 18 & 29 in the US, 94% own a smartphone & 6% own a cell phone. We’re completely plugged in. With the explosion of smartphone ownership and the proliferating nature of technology, I legitimately think there’s a possibility that we’ll eventually just be floating around in bubbles, completely isolated from one another – at least in the flesh. The truth is I really have zero ideas what will happen, but I’ve seen enough Black Mirror episodes to tell me that anything is possible (greeeat show btw).
If you’re 21, you essentially know nothing other than life as we’re currently living it. I, however, was 11 when I first got to use AOL Instant Messenger and hog my families phone line #yikes. Life used to be different back in the day. Riding the subway in the late 90s and even early 2000s, people used to, ya know, actually look at each other and maybe even exchange some small talk or maybe make eyes with a cute guy or girl. But today? Nope. Technology has changed our norms – we have better things to do on our phones and that’s usually the vibe we give off when our attention is on our screens. I, btw, have checked my phone 4x while writing this. It’s involuntary at this point.
When it comes to technology, and specifically our phones, it’s safe to say most of us are flat out addicted. Frankly, it’s a bit hard not to be, they’ve become an extension of us -- it’s our calculator, banking center, Instagram, calendar, work, GPS, etc.., and oh yeah, our phones!
In 2018, US adults were spending about 3 hours & 35 minutes on their mobile devices. In 2015, Deloitte estimated that Americans collectively check their phones 8 billion times a day (!!!). Want to question your entire life? Go to “Screen Time” in Settings on your iPhone #YIKES. We used to sleep with teddy bears. Now? Steve’s iPhone.
So, what’s next for us? IMO, who knows ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. A break for one, is collectively probably a good thing for all of us. Probably good, but also likely VERY hard. Not necessarily a complete electronic/internet break - though that would be even more restorative if you want to try that! #wedidnt, but the occasional phone break.
A break from the ADHD checking, the glow of the blue light screen frying our eyes, & all that comes with constantly being “plugged in.” That kind of break. After throwing up after checking my screen time data on my iPhone, I decided I wanted to make more of an effort to regularly “unplug.”
Below are some things I tried to diet a bit. At times, it’s definitely been a struggle, but when I’ve stayed firm on my own self-imposed rules, I’ve simply just felt better. A calmer mind, less stress & anxiety and even feeling physically better to list a few.
No phone the last 30 minutes before bed.
Seemed easy enough, but in reality, it’s been a lot harder. I didn’t always feel a discernible difference, but I did seem to fall asleep easier. I started doing it a few times a week – Tuesdays through Thursdays. In full transparency, I’ve cheated a few times.
No phone at night once a week → Full night off!
Basically blasphemous today, but it’s been really nice. I’ve tried this now a few times on Monday nights, and it’s been a lot easier to decompress and relax when I haven’t been checking my phone every time it pings. Sometimes our jobs or other obligations make that a non-reality, so it’s different for all of us, but if you don’t have an obligation to be on-call, do you really need to be available every hour of every day?
Actively monitoring your screen brightness.
Phones can be mini blue light suns. At nights, I basically always turn down my screen’s brightness and as a baseline, I try to keep it as low as I can. It also will help you save some battery, so double win!.
When in transit, turn off data / WiFi
I will still listen to music or podcasts, but I turn off my data usually when in transit. You don’t need to be readily available ALL of the time. I choose to do this when on the subway, taking a short walk or bike ride, especially when commuting to work. Finding these little breaks throughout my day has helped me clear my head and minimize distractions, if only for a short while.
No phone in the bathroom
A tough one for sure. For a lot of people, I know bathroom breaks mean phone time. I’m just as guilty as the next guy when it comes to this, but I do do it occasionally and it’s been quite relaxing and almost meditative. As nature intended.
When with friends or family, put the phone down
You’re with that person for a reason, be with them and give them your attention. I’m no angel here and definitely guilty of this, but I do my best to give my full undivided attention. When I’m eating with someone, unless I need to be available for whatever reason, I put my phone on Airplane mode and put it away. Human connection feels good😊
What else can we do? Let’s hear it in the comments below!
Happy & safe phone’ing 📱