Happier Podcast: The Challenges of Being Distracted by Your Phone

This episode of Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast recently had an interesting discussion of the misinterpretations of people’s behaviours based on mobile device usage. Starting around the 15 minute mark, they share stories like: someone thought another parent was being rude at a presentation because they kept looking at their phone, but that person was actually using it to take notes. Or another person kept looking at their watch, but they weren’t checking to see how the time was dragging; instead they were waiting for an important message via their Apple Watch. They recommend warning someone if you’re expecting a call, “my babysitter might be calling me, so excuse me if I glance at my phone.”

 

 

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Is one of your thumbs bigger than the other? Apparently, your smartphone could be the reason why

Is one of your thumbs bigger than the other? Apparently, your smartphone could be the reason why

Excerpt from this article:

New research by the O2 Mobile Life Report claims that people who use their phones a lot may have seen the thumb in their dominant hand become bigger by as much as 15%.

The study also found those who noticed the most changes are young adults aged 18 to 34 – with one in eight developing “swiper’s thumb” as a result of excessive swiping and using large handsets.

It seems a third of mobile phone users felt their bodies had changed because of smartphone use and many said they had developed an indent in their little finger from holding their phones in a certain way.

Are You “Over-Connected”?

(Josh Pulman) (Credit: Josh Pulman)

Photo: Josh Pulman

Excerpt from this article:

A group of people wait by a monument, unaware of each other’s existence. A woman strides open-mouthed down a busy street, holding one hand across her heart. Two young men – brothers? – stand behind a white fence, both their heads bowed at the same angle.

These are some of the moments captured in photographer Josh Pulman’s ongoing series called Somewhere Else, which documents people using mobile phones in public places (see pictures). Almost every street in every city across the world is packed with people doing this – something that didn’t exist a few decades ago. We have grown accustomed to the fact that shared physical space no longer means shared experience. Everywhere we go, we carry with us options far more enticing than the place and moment we happen to be standing within: access to friends, family, news, views, scandals, celebrity, work, leisure, information, rumour.

Little wonder that we are transfixed; that the faces in Pulman’s images ripple with such emotion. We are free, if “free” is the right word, to beam stimulation or distraction into our brains at any moment. Via the screens we carry – and will soon be wearing – it has never been easier to summon those we love, need, care about or rely upon.

Yet, as Pulman himself asks, “If two people are walking down the street together both on the phone to someone else, are they really together? And what is the effect on the rest of us of such public displays of emotion, whether it’s anxiety, rage or joy?” To be human is to crave connection. But can our talent betray us? Is it possible to be “overconnected” – and, if so, what does it mean for our future?

 

 

What You’re Hiding from When You Constantly Check Your Phone

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Excerpt from this article:

In my personal experience, mindlessly relying on my phone and computer has been a useful, albeit insidious, way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings. After all, how many of us regularly accept and embrace those moments when we feel weird or bored or lonely? We usually text a friend, refresh our Twitter feed, or check our email — or reach for a snack or a cigarette. In my own life, I noticed this habit when I quit smoking cigarettes last year. Around that time, a yoga teacher advised me to meditate on what I was feeling during the moments when I craved a cigarette. I realized that I wanted a cigarette most intensely when walking from point A to point B and while waiting for other people to arrive — moments when I had nothing to distract me from the discomfort of simply being with myself. I am sure other smokers can relate to this feeling of cigarette-as-avoidance.

Phones and cigarettes are not the only things that help us turn away from the parts of ourselves we don’t like—anxiety, anger, our fears, our unfulfilled desires, and our need to assert boundaries and take care of ourselves. Whether it’s snacking, smoking, or e-mail refreshing, all these avoidance tactics can serve the same purpose. But phones are among the most socially acceptable.

The distraction afforded by constant connection to social media, news, email, and texting may feel comforting in the short term, but in the long term it may sap what poet John Berryman referred to as “inner resources.” In enabling us to avoid ourselves, our phones allow us to look away from anxious feelings instead of trying to resolve them. I’d hazard the guess that when most of us feel that itch to check our email for the umpteenth time while out to dinner — just to make sure we haven’t missed a call — we actually aren’t as concerned with FOMO, or fear of missing out, as we think. Sure, some of us may truly fear the wrath of a demanding boss on the other line, or a friend (or family member) may be in need. But mostly, we’re trapped in that technology-stress paradox: we share the desire for greater freedom from our devices, and yet that very freedom itself causes anxiety. It makes us ask ourselves what life would feel like if we were really forced to sit with ourselves.

 

Why you shouldn’t let your smartphone be the boss of you

Woman looking at smartphone

Excerpt from this article:

The worst case of “work addiction” I have encountered was described to me by an ex-management consultant. A member of his team – let’s call him Gary – was forced by his employer to take a holiday. The firm saw yet another potential burnout victim on its hands, in what has become a costly epidemic in today’s economy. So Gary bid farewell and set off for sunny Crete for two weeks with his girlfriend.

While he was away the firm noticed something mysterious was happening. Gary’s emails were periodically being cleared in compact 20-minute bursts. He was asked about it when he came back. It turned out he simply couldn’t sit by the beautiful seashore doing nothing all day. He felt as if he was dying inside. So he secretly smuggled his smartphone to the beach and slipped off to the toilet every once in a while to get his email fix. Gary’s co-workers found it hilarious, but also somewhat disconcerting.

Motherhood, Screened Off

Excerpt from this article:

Parents today are often chastised for being distracted by their devices, for devoting more attention to their phones than to their children. I concede that Twitter provides, at times, a more witty conversation than the one I might have with a 6-year-old; that there is, in fact, always some excuse to turn to the device and tune out a small child’s rant about the problem with peanut butter; that the feeling of productivity the phone engenders is as addictive as it is false.

But it seems safe to say that our own parents probably gave more attention to their myriad daily tasks than they did to their children, too, and even did so in their children’s presence. I see my mother, circa 1982, the bills spread out on the kitchen table, her checkbook in front of her; I hear her on the phone as she is writing down directions to someone’s house. The difference is that those tasks, by virtue of not all transpiring on one opaque device, were tangible and thus felt legitimate.

I have started to narrate my use of the phone when I am around my kids. “I’m emailing your teacher back,” I tell them, or, “I’m now sending that text you asked me to send about that sleepover,” in the hopes that I can defang the device’s bad reputation, its inherent whiff of self-absorption.

Photographer Removes Smartphones from Images to Show How Obsessed We Are With Them

Photo: Eric Pickersgill

Excerpt from this article, and be sure to click-through on the link to see more from the photo series:

Photographer Eric Pickersgill series of photographs titled “Removed” was inspired by an experience he once has in a restaurant:

The joining of people to devices has been rapid and unalterable. The application of the personal device in daily life has made tasks take less time. Far away places and people feel closer than ever before. Despite the obvious benefits that these advances in technology have contributed to society, the social and physical implications are slowly revealing themselves. In similar ways that photography transformed the lived experience into the photographable, performable, and reproducible experience, personal devices are shifting behaviors while simultaneously blending into the landscape by taking form as being one with the body. This phantom limb is used as a way of signaling busyness and unapproachability to strangers while existing as an addictive force that promotes the splitting of attention between those who are physically with you and those who are not.