For the past 40 years, my brother Grant has gotten together once a month for lunch with the same group of friends he’s had since high school.
These get-togethers are sacred, as the guys talk about, among other things, the important stuff in life: aging parents, millennial-aged children (need I say more?), thinning hair and expanding waistlines, and the challenges of middle age.
Before lunch begins, each person places his phone in the middle of the table. The penalty for looking at a phone or answering an email, text or call is paying for lunch. For everyone!
Putting your phone aside is not just about increasing productivity and efficiency at work, but more importantly, it’s about making more time to enjoy the things in life that matter the most – friends and family and your own well-being.
In this day and age of digital dependency, developers have created an array of apps to help us monitor and control screen time. I have to ask: what ever happened to self-control?
Speaking of self control, or should I say – the inexcusable lack of self control – I recently attended a memorial service where I had the misfortune of sitting next to a man who was actually texting, emailing and searching the web for the better part of the service. When I asked him, for the third time, to stop, he begrudgingly put away his phone, only to switch his interminable scrolling to his Apple Watch.
Rude doesn’t begin to describe this person’s supercilious, insensitive and disrespectful behavior.
Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in good manners, which means there are times and places you should turn your devices COMPLETELY OFF, including:
- Live theater and movie theaters where others have paid a pretty penny to be entertained and not blinded by the glare of your device and/or watch as you check the latest fantasy football scores or your Tinder account
- Tennis matches and golf tournaments where the players’ concentration is paramount
- While on a date
- And of course, funerals and memorial services
If you can’t abide by these simple boundaries, it’s best you stay home and learn how to behave properly.
Recently, while out for dinner with friends, I noticed a father and son sitting at a nearby table. From the moment they were seated, the father picked-up his phone. When dinner was served, he continued to stare at his phone, all the while twirling his spaghetti with his other hand. Sadly, not once did he look up, not even when his son asked him a question. Interestingly, the son did not have any sort of mobile device with him and sat there staring at his father. This scene brought tears to my eyes, as it was obvious the young boy wanted nothing more than his father’s attention.
Parents wonder why their children have little or no social skills. Maybe if the parents themselves would put down their phones and talk to their kids we wouldn’t end up with generation of socially inept young “adults.”
Behavior patterns begin at home. If the parents stare at their phones during dinner, then it’s a given their children will do the same. LEAD BY EXAMPLE!
Turning off and tuning in is not as tough as it sounds. Following are a few hints for turning off:
- Disable “push notifications” for all non-essential applications (i.e., social media). You’ll be amazed how freeing it is not to hear the insistent pings, dings and rings, not to mention how liberating it is not to see those annoying and guilt-provoking red dots cluttering your device’s home page.
- Disconnect mentally, emotionally and physically by setting personal boundaries, such as not using any electronic devices for the first half hour, and last two hours of the day.
- If you’re a Mac (not a PC), turn off “handoff,” which is Apple’s most invasive feature ever.
- Limit answering texts and emails to a specific time of day (i.e., once an hour or once every two hours, on the half hour).
- Be in the moment and resist the urge to call, text or email when sharing a meal or social event with friends and family.
Finally, it’s important we respect time. Every minute spent on your device is a lost minute, never to be found again. Forget all the millennial rhetoric about FOMO (the fear of missing out). If you don’t “turn off” and learn to experience all that life has to offer, you really will miss out.