Resisting the Reaching for the Smartphone Temptation This Holiday SeasonWhen you’re gathering with your family or friends this holiday season, I suggest you try something unthinkable: don’t take your smartphone out or check it.

I know… It’s a crazy idea. But it’s one that’ll help remind us of something that’s really important — being in the moment with the human beings that are physically present with you.

Why should you keep your phone in your pocket or purse?

Longtime readers know I’m no technophobe. I’ve long argued that “Internet addiction” is not a real condition1, and generally don’t put much faith in “video game addiction” or “smartphone addiction” either. I love what can technology do for us and view it as an invaluable tool that augments our life.

Who’s In Control, You or Your Phone?

But tools are only useful tools when they help us. A hammer stops becoming a useful tool when you try to use it to staple a bunch of papers together. It becomes a downright hindrance when you accidentally take it with you into an airport or grocery store and encounter dozens of odd looks from others.

Tools work best when we use them for the task they were designed for. Carrying a microcomputer2 in your pocket all the time means you have a very versatile, multifaceted tool at your disposal.

So are you using your phone as a tool? Or are you using it as something else — like as a slave driver to read alerts (are you really no better than the typical Pavlovian dog?!) or a distraction from life happening around you??

Connectedness or Distractedness?

Distracted by our smartphones during the holidaysI love it when our smartphones, Android phones and iPhones keep us connected with others in our life. That’s what I use it most for and, according to the Pew Research Center, what most people use their tiny computers for too. They are fantastic at keeping us up-to-date with everything that’s going on around us in the world.

But our smartphones are also great distraction devices too. This is a feature we may not fully appreciate until it crosses social norms. It’s still considered rude — in most circles — to randomly take out your phone and begin working it while in conversations with others. (The exception is when everyone decides, at the same time, to do so nearly simultaneously.) So while it’s tempting to turn to your phone when social conversation lags with those around you, doing so will also significantly distract you from what’s going on around you. It will firmly take you out of the moment.

Being distracted by a bell or alert on your phone is the exact opposite of what most people want out of life. If mindfulness is correlated with greater happiness, distractedness is correlated with greater unhappiness. Something that research into this phenomenon confirms.

If you want to be more unhappy, by all means, start salivating like Pavlov’s dog when your phone makes a ding to let you know there’s a new Facebook update for you to check out. Now! But I suspect we all want to rise above our baser nature…

Mindfulness & the Holidays

You don’t get to spend as much time as you might think with your family (even though for some, that time may seem endless when it does happen). Time is one of the common denominators in all our lives — a rich person can’t buy more.

Time is better spent actually being with those you chose to be with. Being in the moment — right here, right now. Whatever your phone is buzzing about is — trust me — not important or worth your time if you truly want to be in the moment with the people around you.

Of course, if you don’t want to be around those you’re “forced” to be with, then your phone may provide a welcome refuge. Unless you’re a child, however, you have a choice in the matter of who you spend your holidays. So maybe you should be rethinking your choices if you’re so unhappy you’re disconnecting from the people around you to attend to a game or social media update.

Smartphones during the holidays

Take the Holiday Mindfulness Pledge

So take this pledge with me this holiday season: “I will not reach for my phone at a holiday gathering with my friends or family to distract me (even from something momentarily uncomfortable with those around me).”

I’ll do it. Will you?

 

Images by Sarah Grohol Illustration.

Footnotes:

  1. And the DSM-5 agrees with me []
  2. Most popular smartphones are more powerful than any desktop computer made before 2004! []