Heads up! Everyone is looking down.

Quality time. You hear people talking about this all the time. Most of the time they are referring to it as a long-lost art. Something they used to have more of, or wish they had more of. Can you relate?

No matter where I go when I’m outside of my home; and yes, this happens at my home too, there is always bound to be someone looking down at their phone. I’m not a Chiropractor, but I suspect they see many people in their office due to issues with people that have some sort of neck issue related to looking down all the time.

There have been studies to suggest that many of the applications in our phones are designed to have an addictive component to them. In the software and marketing world, it’s referred to as a phenomenon of being “sticky”. Having spent decades in software marketing, I could bore you to tears on this concept, but I will spare you from these gory details. You don’t have to be a genius to understand how you have probably experienced this “sticky” concept as recently as today.

I can’t say I like seeing my phone remind me at the end of the week via a push notification about how many average hours I spent using my phone, but I’m always surprised by the number. Not in a good way, so I’m not proclaiming to be fabulous at not looking down at my phone like everyone else. However, I do make a conscious decision that when I am out with people and engaging with them, that I put my phone away. To actually engage with them!

For those who are not extroverts, their phone in social settings actually serves as a force field to shield them from feeling uncomfortable. Or, at least this is my perception of how it can help them to feel less anxious or shy. However, although having your phone with you in social settings and using it might make you feel more comfortable, I guarantee people are noticing you are engaging more with your phone than the people around you.

In some respects, we have moved closer to a society of it becoming acceptable to zone in on our phones in social settings. My opinion is that we are seemingly hitting the ignore button with our surroundings. When I think ahead in terms of the impact this is having, or will have on our society from a long-term basis, I’m not seeing a pretty picture.

The term social isolation comes to mind when I see groups of people together who should in fact be interacting with one another; both at work and in social situations, yet they are not doing this. By nature, we are social creatures. Although our phones allow us to be social in a different way with more people, it is via a method which is one step removed from physically interacting. Yes, you might get the sense you are having positive interactions with people in your digital world, but at the same time, you are not able to gain the benefit of an in-person interaction. I’ll refer to an in-person interaction as a multi-dimensional one.

Multi-dimensional interactions with “live” people are what help us to feel less social isolation. However, it can take more effort, and bravery to interact with people, especially ones you may not know that well. However, if we continue to increase the amount of time in front of our screens, and don’t flex our actual social interaction muscles, I’m concerned about our future abilities to be able to do this well are being severely compromised.

In the spirit of offering some solutions to reducing our screen time and heads down phenomenon, here are some suggestions to consider implementing if you find yourself to be part of our heads down society.

  • Consider using your phone as a tool to find interesting topics you can read about, and then discuss with others around you. Naturally you should take into consideration the people in your present environment so the topics you discuss are relevant or at least potentially intriguing.
  • Challenge yourself for one week with limiting your time in front of your phone by as few as 5 minutes and up to 30 minutes per day. Use this time to do something else, ideally something productive or creative.
  • Actually, be aware and record what you are doing instead of looking at your phone. This is equivalent to when you work with a dietitian and they ask you to record everything you eat during the course of a day. Sometimes we are unaware of the amount of time we are spending on our phones, or calories we are consuming.
  • If you are in a social setting and see someone else on their phone, go over to them and strike up a conversation with them. Perhaps you could ask them something related to their phone (e.g., Do they like the current one they have?). Or, you could ask them about what was the most interesting thing they have done lately that did not involve having their phone in use?
  • Instead of looking down at your phone, and it happens to be dark outside, consider downloading a star finder application to use your phone to learn about astrology and the stars. Consider doing this activity with another person so you are leveraging your phone for a more social purpose, while looking up!

I’ll be leveraging my own advice this week, and I hope that some of my suggestions will be useful to you too. Let’s all commit to becoming better and aware of the importance of reducing our screen time. There are so many benefits to spending less time on our phones, do you agree?

Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Performance Strategist and CEO of Market Me Too.  She is a Gallup Certified Strengths Finder Coachauthor of two business books (e.g.,  Wisdom Whisperer, Evolve! With the Wisdom Whisperer), and is a well-respected motivational and social influencer with a global following from her numerous speaking, print, radio and television media appearances. She also is the creator and Host of a TV Show and Podcast called Murf & E Unfiltered – Zero BS Biz Talk.

Essentially every team is dysfunctional in some way. Our expertise is in uniting, motivating and bridging dysfunctional teams (sports & business), and turning them into epic ones.

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