I was enjoying a solo lunch at Chipotle last week and found myself observing and thinking about how the other customers were interacting (or not) with each other. The thing that really got to me was the lack of real-life connection between people eating lunch together vs. the abundance of digital connection between those same people and their phones. It made me want to yell, “PUT YOUR PHONES DOWN,” but I thought that might be a tad inappropriate.

All the people enthralled with their phones made me feel sad. I noticed the father and son sitting to my left and wished they were sharing conversation instead of eating in silence. I noticed the business man in suit and tie standing at the back of the restaurant uncomfortably on his phone, obviously waiting for someone to meet him for lunch. I wanted to tell him to put his phone down and come join me for conversation while he waited (although I suppose his wife that eventually showed up could have gotten the wrong idea).

Almost everyone was either on their phones or, at the very least, had them on the table so they were sure not to miss a buzz when the next notification came through. I wanted to tell them to put their phones away and enjoy the person right there in front of them. Find out what their hopes and dreams are, what brings them joy, or even what they struggle with that you could potentially help with.

The way we behave with our phones says that these devices are more important than the people right in front of us. I don’t believe the need to hear how “liked” and “important” we supposedly are is more important than respecting the person right in front of us.

Society as a whole moves at such a fast pace that we don’t stop to question what we are doing. The phones themselves aren’t the problem, it’s the non-intentional use of them that’s the problem. We haven’t spent enough time off the phones to realize how out of control our usage actually is. The thought hasn’t crossed our minds that our time could be better spent adding value to others instead of merely keeping track of what everyone else is up to.

I’m choosing to lead by example and put my phone down. It’s my hope that someone will see me NOT on my phone and think twice before getting on theirs. If I intentionally break my own twitch maybe they will break theirs, too.

And, by the way, “everyone does it, what’s the big deal?” is not an acceptable justification. Remember that phrase your Grandma used to say when you used that line of reasoning? Something about, “if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” Just because the masses do it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

I challenge you to put your phone down and watch your relationships deepen. Start with some of these baby steps:

  • Turn ALL notifications off (this includes push, badges, and sounds)
  • Put your to do list app where your email icon was – then when you mindlessly click to see if you have new emails it pulls up your to do list instead and is a subtle reminder of what you should be focusing on
  • Keep your phone in another room so you aren’t tempted to check it 24/7 and let other people dictate your priorities for the day with their interruptions
  • Download and use these wallpapers on your phone for daily reminders to put it down and live in the moment (thanks to Sarah Wehkamp over at Parents Who for introducing me to them).
  • Use the free time gained from being off your phone to sit and think about what you want out of life and then draft a roadmap for how you’re going to get there.

If you’d like to take things even further, you could go back to a “dumb phone” or look into any of these alternative options to cellular.  They all sound like good experiments I might just have to try.

Let me know what tips you employ to keep your device usage intentional as this is a constant battle we all must fight.