A few years ago I went to see 'The Script' in concert. The lead singer, Danny had disappeared from the front stage and reappeared up in the balcony singing to a delighted, albeit hysterical fan, who was filming him with her mobile as he serenaded her.
To the audience’s complete surprise he stopped singing and asked her to stop looking at him through her phone screen. He said, “I am standing here right in front of you but you’re looking at me through your screen!” He then asked her to put it away and addressed his adorning audience and pleaded with them to stop their mobile videos, turn on their camera lights and sing with him. Thousands of lights lit up the arena as he belted out ‘Sky full of lighters – Bruno mars.’ This memory still gives me goose-bumps when I think about it. It reminds me to stop now and then, put my phone down and be present in the moment. Sadly for some of us, this is difficult to do.
Most people these days have their phones on their desk, at the dinner table, next to them on the sofa, in their pockets or worse, are carrying it in their hand whilst walking around. Are you a nomophobe? (the feeling of panic or stress a person feels when they are without their phone). I think a lot of us are. I laugh when I think of Del Boy from the sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses’ when he first used that giant ‘brick’ of a mobile phone. Would we be so attached to our phones if they weren’t so compact, portable and discreet?
Constant use of your mobile phone can lead to addiction, repetitive behaviours and negative habits. You know you are addicted when you get separation anxiety from your phone and can’t bear to be without it, not even for a few minutes. Yes, I kid you not, separation anxiety from your mobile is a real thing! And any type of addiction has been proven to cause stress around withdrawal!
"Quite worryingly one week during the summer holidays I happened to check my phone usage and was gobsmacked to see I’d spent 36 hours on it! 36 hours! That is the equivalent of nearly a whole week’s work spent on my phone and I didn’t even get paid for it!"
Kids are spending up to 8 hours a day on phones! When experts say a two-hour limit is more than sufficient and we aren’t doing enough to protect them. Take this recent ‘Momo’ fad which terrified a lot of children playing on mobile devices, and created a moral panic globally with hidden messages in popular children’s videos such as ‘Peppa Pig’ and online games such as ‘Fortnite’ challenging them to self-harm or commit suicide. Perhaps this should have been a strong warning to parents to be more vigilant of what their children were looking at rather than leaving them for hours at a time on technology.
They are kids for goodness sake! As an adult you can take the phone off them! Monitor their usage, support them with healthy phone use habits, lead by example and educate them in good mental health and wellbeing.
Unfortunately, some adults aren’t far behind their kids spending an average of 5 plus hours a day on their mobiles. There is an app you can download which tells you how much time you have spent on your phone, what apps you have used, how much on each app, how many times you have picked your phone up. Download and check if you dare. Don’t fret though, you are probably in the majority who are struggling with being addicted to your phone.
Quite worryingly one week during the summer holidays I happened to check my phone usage and was gobsmacked to see I’d spent 36 hours on it! 36 hours! That is the equivalent of nearly a whole week’s work spent on my phone and I didn’t even get paid for it. Time I could have put to better use writing another book, building my business, writing another article! I put my hand up, I myself was a nomophobe!
Also I am embarrassed to share this but do so in the hope it might offer the same wake-up call it gave me. When I once asked my son why we didn’t seem to have long conversations anymore like we used to, his simple reply was, ‘You are always on your phone and it just makes me feel you are not listening to me.’ From that moment I decided to put my phone down, and immediately he entered the room saying hello and wanting to speak.
I’m not perfect, nor do I claim to be but nothing and I repeat nothing is more important than showing someone you love or respect that they are important.
Look around, in the meeting room at work, when picking your child up from school (and don’t get me started on this one, it breaks my heart seeing toddlers in pushchairs holding their Mums mobile watching kiddie cartoons or playing games and little kids running up to Mum or Dad waving their latest painting at them excitedly whilst the parent just carries on chatting or texting on their phone, oblivious to their child’s disappointment.
If someone is speaking with you please put your phone down or in your pocket and show them they are important and you care. People before technology - always!
So how can we break this awful habit we have adopted?
Here are some strategies to help you limit your phone use.
Not using your phone in the car. Driving is considered one of the most dangerous activities you do on a daily basis. A momentary lapse of concentration could be devastating and yet I still see people talking or worse still typing as they attempt to navigate.
Turning off your notifications. Just the very sound of the alerts can cause an emotional response in your body. The ping of a text is so addictive that a lot of us can’t help but instantly respond to our phone’s calling tone and picking it up.
Putting your mobile on silent and checking notifications at agreed times only.
Disconnecting from all technology and reconnecting with nature. Go for a walk along the beach, in the countryside or in the park without your phone. Be technology free for an hour. We have become so co-dependent on our mobiles. We need to reconnect with nature.
Not using your phone in the bedroom. The place where you go to sleep should be a peaceful and tranquil setting. Coming away from your phone and all technology an hour before you go to sleep might actually aid a more restful night for you.
Decrease your anxiety levels. Next time you go into a meeting and you are scrolling through your social media feed, remember although it might be saving you from boredom, scrolling may be fuelling your anxiety. Put your phone away, encourage your colleagues to do the same and maybe try having a proper conversation? And if the thought of having a proper conversation with your colleagues (you know… the people you spend 8 hours with every day) disheartens you, maybe it’s time to look for another job where you actually enjoy interacting with your colleagues?
I miss the good ole days when you used to sit in a waiting room, at the local takeaway, in a business meeting whilst waiting for the boss to arrive or in the grocery line and actually turn to the next person and have a good old fashioned conversation. Nowadays everyone is busy looking at a screen attached to their hand. Just do a spot of people-watching and look out for the nomophobes amongst us next time you are out and about. You’ll see hordes of them busy looking down at their screens, living in a world of their own, disconnected from one another, unable to leave their phone alone.
‘Selfie here, selfie there… Click click here, scroll, scroll there… Neither here, nor anywhere!’
Suze Somerville is a Wellbeing Advisor and Coach experienced in wellbeing practices and personal development including stress and anger management, mental health issues, confidence and esteem to name a few. Suze is an Author and also trained in Mindfulness and Reiki. She runs Wellbeing Workshops for Women, runs her own online business in natural health and wellbeing products. Look out for her next event in Kent and surrounding which can be purchased through Eventbrite. You can contact Suze through Linkedin