This article is by Almira Ross, one of our Certified Coaches and part of the coaching team on our the Lead the Change and BePowerful Programmes.
Your most intimate relationship probably isn’t with your partner, your kids or your family. These days, they often take distant second place to a much more intriguing, exciting and stimulating relationship. One we can enjoy any time of day, anywhere we happen to be, whatever we happen to be doing, no matter who we may be with. It’s all so easy, so comfortable, so inviting, so safe. Or so we think.
Your smartphone is your new BFF – Best Friend Forever
It might sound like a shocking statement, but take a minute to think about it. Your phone is your constant companion, with you pretty much 24/7: always on, always engaging, always demanding your attention. The smartphone has opened up a world that is irresistible. Where else can you
• Run your business,
• Work wherever you happen to be,
• Explore your neighbourhood,
• Shop to your heart’s content,
• Answer emails,
• Check the weather,
• Have a video chat with friends and family halfway around the world,
• Watch a cute video, or
• Take a photo of your meal and share it with everyone you know?
All at the swipe of a finger. Without having to leave the sofa. Or your desk. Or your seat at the restaurant.
You wake with it; quick to check your messages and email; carry it with you everywhere you go.
Maybe you even take it to bed with you to monitor the quality of your sleep.
Technology has advanced dramatically in the past 10 years. It’s only 12 years since Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone, yet this technology has rapidly become so much a part of our daily lives, we simply can’t live without it. For many, that dependency is now bordering on addiction, a worrying trend.
You don’t need to look far to see signs of it
I’m sitting at a posh restaurant in London. Fresh linen table cloth, silver service, a beautiful single yellow rose on the table, soothing atmosphere.
My husband, Michael, and I were having a deliciously romantic evening. As we sat sipping our before dinner drinks and sharing our lives from the day, I looked over at a younger couple at a table opposite us.
Like us, they had been seated opposite one another at their table. Their meal had already been served. Instead of enjoying it, each of them had their noses in their smartphones, thumbs flashing rapidly as they busily texted or posted on social media. Oblivious to one another and to everything around them.
Travelling into central London on the tube yesterday, I noticed that easily 9 out of every 10 passengers in my crowded carriage were having a love affair with their mobiles. It’s so easy, so convenient, so natural. And so addictive.
Your phone does make your life better and easier in so many ways. But at what cost to you and your loved ones? And what can you do about your own phone usage and that of your family, if technology has taken over your lives?
What does your screen time cost you?
When you spend so much time on your phone, connected to your online world, you can easily disconnect from those people who are nearest and dearest to you, and they from you.
You’re physically together, yet miles apart in your own separate worlds. Even if you are aware of this distance, it can be really hard to wean yourself and your family off their devices. Your technology and the world this opens up to you is sooooo irresistible.
When we step into the online world of cyberspace from our living room, our office or on the daily commute, we think this world is the same as the real world we’re sitting in. It isn’t.
It’s much more interactive and stimulating. We can go anywhere, explore whatever takes our fancy, and lose track of time (time we often class as wasted…)
Online, we can be different people
Research has revealed some fascinating (and scary!) trends in our behaviour online. We think we behave there as we do in the real world, but often we don’t.
We act ‘drunk’ – becoming less inhibited, more adventurous and willing to take risks.
In cyberspace, no one’s in charge; we can be anonymous or take on whatever persona we fancy; there’s a distance, a separation, between us and those we connect with.
With that distance and anonymity and without any perceived authority, we let go of inhibitions — a condition psychologists refer to as disinhibition.
We feel it’s safer than the real world and that connecting with people here somehow carries fewer risks. It isn’t and it doesn’t. If anything, it’s a far riskier place.
Problem behaviours can become bigger online. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a flaming email, aggressive texts or offensive posts, you’ll know how distressing this can be. And how quickly that behaviour can escalate. Behaviours that are socially unacceptable in our ‘real world’ can find a home and become normal in cyberspace. Porn, right and left wing extremists, self-harm, and unusual fetishes all have a home online. You find your tribe, and the behaviour is no longer ostracised; it’s celebrated.
This is especially worrying for children and teens, who often access adult material without either the emotional or mental maturity to handle it.
It’s so enticing, it’s addictive. In fact, this is a growing problem for adults, too.
So what can we do?
Technology per se is neither good nor bad. It’s a tool, one I’m passionate we women master so that we can lead the change we want to see in this world. Master that technology; not be its servant.
1. Mastery begins with awareness
Just how much time do you spend on your phone? The answer might surprise you. It certainly did me, when I set up the Moments app on my phone (iOS and Android) to check my own phone usage. I was shocked to discover I was spending over twice as much time as I thought.
Moments keeps track of the number of times and the length of time you spend on your phone. The beauty of this app is that you can set limits for yourself, and your family. It’s the first step towards understanding your phone use. And then making changes.
2. Get unplugged.
Agree boundaries around screen time for yourself and your family. Tech leaders like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates really restricted their children’s use of technology. The same is true for many other parents whose primary role is technology based. We understand the dangers.
Even a rule like no devices at the dinner table, or in the last 2 hours before bed can make a huge difference to your relationships — and your health. Reducing screen time limits the impact of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on your body.
3. Enjoy your phone – consciously
And indeed all the powerful digital technology that’s available to us today. Explore the wonderful world it opens up for you, to learn and grow, to reach thousands of people around the world with your message and make your difference in this world.
Just treat it like the useful tool it is. Master it with discernment and it will serve you well.
Dr Almira Ross is one of our Certified Women’s Coaches, and is an in-house coach on our Lead the Change and Be Powerful Programmes.
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