The Being & The Doing EPISODE 9:
Do You Have Nomophobia!
Do you need a relationship reboot with your phone? Digital distraction is a problem that can have seriously negative effects on your focus, productivity and your relationship with others. In this episode Laurel invites listeners to look at the truth behind our phone addiction and the simple ways we can begin a digital detox.
*A full transcript will be posted soon.
Take the Smartphone Compulsion Test developed by the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine
Here’s a blog about what happens when you and the fam unplug for a weekend.
:::::> 13 Tips for a Digital Detox
Grab your 13 Tips for a Digital Detox: Click Here <::::
THIS EPISODE’S HOMEWORK
Something to think about:
In what ways does my phone enrich my life?
In what ways does my phone interfere with my life?
Something to try:
Pick one of the 4 suggestions that I made and give it a try – create a no phone zone, put healthy habits first in the morning, have a trial separation, delete some apps.
Here’s the thing about these tips or any other tips on any other topic – you have to do it to make a difference. Listening to me talk about them will not change your relationship with your phone. You need to try something different from what you are currently doing to create change.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Love to hear what you have to say – please take a moment to rate, review and/or leave a comment or question.
Want to hear more of The Being & The Doing podcast or subscribe so you never miss an episode? Check out the podcast episode archive here or subscribe on iTunes or wherever you enjoy your podcasts.
CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is GoodMorning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Transcript of the Show
Intro: Welcome to The Being and The Doing, a podcast about well-being and the practices that help us have more calm, focus, purpose, and presence in our busy lives. Here’s your host, author and life coach, Laurel Vespi.
Laurel: Hey lovely ones, welcome to Episode 9 of The Being and The Doing. In today’s show, we’re going to take a look at relationships; no, not the one with your sweetie pie or your kids or your co-workers, although that is going to become part of the conversation a little bit later on, we are going to take a look at another important relationship that you have. So let’s start with a question, do you have nomophobia?
Let’s see; do you constantly check that you have your phone with you? Maybe do you get a little anxious at the thought of losing it? How about you realize that you forgot your phone once you’ve left the house and you actually turn around and go back and get it? We are so attached to our phones now; there is actually a name for the anxiety about being phoneless, nomophobia – no mobile phone phobia, nomophobia.
So maybe that’s not you but what about this, is your phone the first and the last thing that you see every day? Be honest, do you ever use your phone when you’re driving or walking even though you know that is really a bad thing to do? So before we go any further, just let me be clear about my opinion on smartphones.
They are not bad, I use one, there are lots of helpful things at my phone can do for me but in all honesty, most of us need a relationship fix with our phone, maybe a little tweak, maybe a huge overhaul because we are in a relationship with our phone in the same way that we have a relationship with lots of other things in our lives like food or money or health.
So imagine for a moment that your phone was actually a person, a person that you were having a relationship with, and imagine if you treated that person like you do your phone? Needing to always be connected, constantly checking in, following every move, kind of sounds a little dysfunctional, doesn’t it or maybe even a little creepy? So I’m guessing that some of you are thinking, yep, my relationship with my phone is not healthy and some of you are thinking, okay, I don’t have a problem; which is usually what people who have a problem say, I don’t have a problem.
Judging by my observations of people when I’m out and about, when I’m in a restaurant, in the grocery store, in the car, wherever, it seems to me that we could all step back and kind of have a little assessment of our relationship with our phones. Now I want to make an important point here, this is not simply a younger generation problem. I can assure you, this is a cross-generational problem. In fact, it might be true that Millennials are not nearly as bad as Baby Boomers when it comes to their phones.
My kids have called out my hubby and I on our phone use occasionally: “Mom, Dad, put the phone away.” I actually wrote a blog about the experience of unplugging for a whole weekend with our kids, I’ll leave the link to it in the show notes and what it is that we learned about being unplugged for a whole weekend.
So I invite you to turn your attention inward for a bit. You have lots to say about other people but let’s shift the focus into self-examination for now and let’s just go with the idea that yeah, maybe I could at least tweak my relationship with my phone even if it isn’t completely overhauling it. Studies suggest that people check their phones around a hundred and fifty times a day; is there anything else that you do that many times a day? Now again, maybe that’s not you but how many times a day do you check your phone? Do you even know how many times a day you do?
Now if you want an objective opinion about smartphone addiction, you can actually take the smartphone compulsion test, yes, that’s a thing. It was developed by the center for Internet and Technology Addiction, yes, that’s a thing too, at the University Of Connecticut School Of Medicine. So it’s this 15 question test that lets you know if you have a relationship problem with your phone and so I will leave a link to the to the test how to get it. It’s great, you don’t have to opt in or anything and you just click it and answer the questions. I’ll leave that link in the show notes. So be brave, take the test, it might be kind of eye-opening for you.
But you know, it’s not entirely our fault that we have a problem. Our apps and our devices have been carefully designed to hook our attention for as long as possible. That juicy little tidbit, actually comes from a guy who used to work at Google as a design ethicist, his name is Tristan Harris. After he left Google, he founded the center for Humane Technology, yes, that is actually a thing. He spreads the word now about the ways that devices are designed to intentionally addict us.
So basically, your brain reacts to the notifications that you get from your phone, the buzzes, the beeps, whatever and when you hear that and when you’re looking at things, your brain releases dopamine and dopamine is one of those feel-good neurotransmitters. At the brain center that’s responsible for dopamine is also related to other things that we really like; eating, sex, and alcohol. Dopamine rewards us for behaviors and motivates us to repeat them again and Apps are also designed with specific colors that our brains really respond to.
There’s another researcher, his name is Adrian Ward at the University of Texas at Austin and he describes it this way; that since our phones are continually rewarding us for looking at them, it’s like we’re carrying around what he calls this attentional gravitational black hole. So, you know, what a black hole does, it just sucks everything into it. Now his research suggests that just having your phone present, even if its face down or turned off actually affects your cognitive capacity, even if you aren’t checking it or even if you aren’t thinking about it and he says that’s because our brains have to use resources to not pay attention to something, in this case not pay attention to our phone.
So yes, true, our brains have been hijacked by technology in the way it’s been designed so it’s not entirely our fault. But we are not simply unwitting slaves to our phones, we can actually make some conscious choices about how we use them. So part of what is going on is just bad habits, we’ve created some bad habits around our phones. We aren’t conscious and intentional about deciding how and when and why we want to use our phone. Here’s the thing, you need to be motivated in order to change your habit, your phone habit, just like any other habit, you’ve got to be motivated to do it.
So I’m going to give you some motivation or perhaps some inspiration to be motivated. Here’s the really important thing about this relationship that you have with your phone; not only does it encourage you to multitask which we know is an ineffective use of our time and it encourages us to procrastinate. Meaning, we’re not getting done the things we want to get done and it encourages us to be distracted as we’re scrolling through Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter. It also raises our expectations or other people’s expectations that we are always on call.
So now there’s a thing that, well, everyone has their phone with them; I have an expectation that if I text you or message you in some way that you’re going to respond right away. So yes, that is all true, but your phone relationship also has a big impact on your more important relationships; your relationships with your partner, with your kids, your family, your friends, maybe your co-workers.
So let’s look at some of those negative impacts and just really, you know, shine a light on them. What does this relationship with your phone do to the other more important relationships in your life?
Number one; it has a negative impact on your ability to make connections with the people who are most important to you. Because if you’re paying attention to your phone in the presence of some other person, you send the message that your phone or whatever it is you’re doing on your phone, is more important than they.
And I know that you have been on the receiving end of that, we have all been on the receiving end of that; of someone who we’re having a conversation with and their phone beeps, buzzes, vibrates and they immediately turn their attention to their phone. They take a call or they text or they scroll, in spite of the fact that we have just been having an in-person conversation or we’ve been engaged in an activity together.
And how does that make us feel? Devalued; we don’t feel that we are worth as much as whatever it is that’s going on in the phone. I know you have had that experience, I’ve had that experience and you know, I hate to own it, but I will; I’ve done that to other people.
So think about that every time we do that and we all do it; we send this loud and clear message to the other person that something else is more important and that other person now probably feels rejected. And this is not just adult to adults stuff, this is particularly true with kids and parents. So if you’re a parent, your phone use communicates a message to your kids. Now, you want to be brave again, ask them: “How do you feel when Mom or Dad is on the phone?” And then take a deep breath and let them tell you and don’t debate it or argue it, just take it as information, maybe it begins to create some motivation for you. so that’s number one.
I think number two impact is our phone use starts to impact on our ability to communicate well. When did text messages and emojis become the preferred method of communication and we are all excited, ooh, they’ve just released a whole new batch of emojis; that should not excite us. People now often choose to have in-depth [quote-unquote] discussions via texting instead of in person. And this is not a good way to have a disagreement with someone or to try to solve a problem with someone.
So the more we do that, we lose the skill of in-person conversation and communication. The more we do that, the more uncomfortable it feels when we actually have to talk to a person because sure it’s easier to send a text than look somebody in the eye. And we also miss all of the other information and cues that we get from a person’s voice. So if in-person isn’t possible and I get it sometimes in-person is not possible, then you can always use the phone function on your phone to talk rather than text.
I mean, it’s an amazing thing that we have phones, but we don’t actually use them as phones. You know, someone said I don’t know who it was but it was communicated to me, actually quite a long time ago, is the only phone calls that you get on your phone now is someone calling to ask you if you got their text messages; so know that the phone function actually is a built-in function of your phone that you can use. Okay, so that’s two.
The third impact to be thinking about is on intimacy. So let’s think about the relationship that you have with your most significant other and that is actually based in connection and communication. So all of the things that I just mentioned about how our phones negatively impact on our ability to connect and our ability to communicate is particularly true with your partner. Your phone really isn’t the best vehicle for building intimacy with your partner.
Okay, sure, I get it. You know sexting might be a fun and titillating kind of activity that you do once in a while whatever but intimacy is really about enhancing emotional connection with your partner, and that doesn’t happen through a phone. The other thing is that phones are now this constant feature in the bedroom.
And when your phone has a presence in the bedroom, it not only is impacting on your sleep, but it impacts on sex and you know good old fashioned with these little pillow talk that yeah, you might be in bed with your partner, but you’re both on your phone rather than you’re both in bed and maybe having some sort of conversation, even if it’s just sort of a fun and frivolous conversation.
You know, it used to be that sex, money, and kids were the biggest sources of friction in couples’ relationships, but now phones and computers and other technology, other kinds of devices are also being reported as significantly disruptive in relationships and families. Wow, significantly disruptive; there’s enough going on in your relationship with your partner and with your family, there’s enough going on that you don’t need to add a significant disruption into it too that comes in the form of your phone.
So here’s the thing, you know smartphones are wonderful tools. I mean, you’ve got cool stuff that you can do with them but what if we worried less about charging our phones and worried more about being in charge of how we use them? Let’s get off of autopilot around that phone relationship and how we use it and be more conscious and intentional in our choices about how and when and why we are actually using our phone.
Okay, rant is done, you know, there are lots of tips about how you could begin to improve your relationship with your phone. I’m going to put a link in the show notes to a download that I’ve put together some very specific things that you can try, some little things that you can try and some really big things if you want a relationship reboot with your phone, but I want to share four important ones for you to consider right now.
Okay, first one, create some no phone zones. Now, you know somebody might be thinking, whoa, yikes, what if someone needs me? I can’t have a no-phone zone because people need to be able to get a hold of me. And here’s the thing; we have managed quite nicely for generations without having constant access to other people.
So just notice your anxiety around that and start small, just make some rules about when you do not use your phone. For example; no phone zone driving, walking, in the bathroom, at mealtimes, watching TV, in the bedroom, you don’t have to create them all as no phone zones, but begin with something, you know pick something and then as you get comfortable with that, then you can expand the zone.
You can also create some rules about in what circumstances you don’t use your phone; I don’t use my phone when I’m having conversations with my kids after school or I don’t use my phone when I’m socializing with friends or when I’m talking to another person. Remember, these are bad habits that we have so it’s going to take some focus and attention and practice to make them stick. Okay, that’s the first one to consider.
Here’s another tip, start with healthy habits first. So pick three healthy habits, whatever it is that you want to do first thing in the morning before you check your phone. So they might be habits that don’t take very long or they could be ones that do take longer. The idea is to create a space between waking up and plugging in. So whatever three healthy habits, are that make sense for you, like maybe you get up and you stretch and maybe you brush your teeth or maybe you Journal, I don’t know whatever it is; go for a run then check your phone.
Number three is if we’re talking about phones and relationships and we’re talking about some dysfunction in relationships, sometimes relationships that are in difficulty, need a bit of a trial separation. Unplug for an hour, which is a little different than a no-phone Zone, this is about I’m going to unplug for an hour a day or a weekend, pick the one that doesn’t make you go crazy and this gives you an opportunity, a space to have some real-life experiences instead of just virtual ones.
And sure I get it for some of you that this might be a challenge, just pay attention to your withdrawal symptoms, and if you’re someone who’s hugely attached to your phone, maybe don’t go too cold turkey just ease into it and then you can plan for regular scheduled unplugging. Think of it, relationship as a conscious uncoupling and trust me your phone won’t mind, it will still love you when you come back, it’ll be waiting for you.
And the last one is to maybe delete some apps; pick the ones that tend to get your attention, but don’t really improve your life and go ahead and delete them. So for now, let me leave you with a little bit of ‘being and doing’ homework as always something to think about and something to try so grab a pen and write them down or if you are in the car or walking or wherever you are that you can’t do that know, of course, that the homework is always in the show notes and you can get the homework there.
So here goes; something to think about, two questions, actually, the first one, in what ways does my phone enrich my life? And the second question, in what ways does my phone interfere with my life? So really just having a moment to reflect about, yeah, here’s what’s great about it and yeah, here’s the stuff where we need a fix.
Something to try; well, I encourage you to pick one of those four suggestions that I made and give it a try. Create a no-phone zone or put healthy habits first in the morning or have a trial separation or delete some apps because here’s the thing about these tips or any other tips on any other topic, you have to do it in order for it to make a difference.
Listening to me talk about them will not change your relationship with your phone; you need to try something different from what you’re currently doing in order to create some change.
So next time I’m going to share some ideas about creating a home sanctuary. Do you ever feel like you need a place to just recharge? Like life’s crazy and you’ll want to recharge, who doesn’t, on some days? So tune in to find out some surprisingly simple ways to create that recharge space for you. Until then, lovely ones, breathe and enjoy your day.
Outro: You’ve been listening to The Being and The Doing with your host, Laurel Vespi. If you liked this episode and think other people would, please subscribe, rate, and give a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to tune in next week for another conversation about, The Being and The Doing. Thanks for listening.