Five Ways To Unplug And Reconnect

Much has been written about the negative influences of social media. Looking at someone else’s life through their “personal perfection filter” can leave us sad, depressed and even despondent if we feel our own lives simply don’t stack up. Remember, behind your coworker’s flawless European vacation on Instagram may be missed flights, screaming kids, disagreements, sunburns, diarrhea or mounting credit card debt. As perfect as anything may seem on social media, we all know the reality of family vacations. One thing you can do is spend less time focusing on someone else’s life and more time on your own.

Most of your friends will be happy to take a break from their phones and connect with the people around them.

Here are some real-world tips you can use to step away from the screen and back into real life:

The Dinner Party Cell Phone Basket

Put a small basket near your front door and label it cell phones. Ask your guests to place their phones in the basket while they are visiting. If you’ve spent all day preparing a delicious meal or spectacular evening, the very least your guests can do is leave their phones at the door and honor the fact that you would like them to be present and in the moment. You’ll find that most of your friends will be happy to take a break from their phones and connect with the people around them.

Take every opportunity to be in the moment.

The Lunch Phone Grab

Having lunch with friends? Encourage everyone to put their phones face down in the center of the table. The first one to look at their phone pays for lunch. It’s a pretty effective deterrent, especially if you’re at a trendy, high-priced lunch spot. The other benefit? No one will be looking at their phone when the bill comes or taking an imaginary call to get out of paying their fair share.

The Top 10

Part of the problem with being connected to minicomputers all day is that we don’t have to use our memories as much as we used to. And, just like any muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it. This little game is great for families with children. Ask your kids to memorize the top 10 phone numbers they may need in case of an emergency. At dinnertime, you can spot-check to see how they’re doing. When they can finally recall all 10 contacts with no help, reward them with $10. Not only does this exercise their recall, but in case they lose or break their phones, they will be able to remember important numbers when they do get to a phone. You can even try this one yourself. Make a bet with your significant other, and the first one to remember all 10 numbers wins!

The Google Deferment Plan

There’s nothing like an evening with friends when the conversation is fun, eclectic and all over the place. One minute, it’s “Who sang that song?” and the next, it’s “What’s aquafaba?” In those situations, people are always grabbing their phones to Google the answers. By the time someone finds an answer, the conversation has moved on. Here’s a fun tip. Leave a pad and paper on the table. When those questions come up, forget the phone and jot them down. At the end of the evening, you can read back the questions, which is a great way to recap your night and it usually gets everyone laughing at the collective stream of consciousness. Someone can even take the list home and group-email everyone the answers as a fun follow-up or thank-you for the evening. The Google deferment plan keeps everyone engaged with the conversation and provides some additional levity to the occasion.

As we’ve become more programmed to multitasking and interfacing with our phones than with our surroundings, we quickly retreat to the familiarity of our digital space.

The Solo Sans Phone

One of the most common phone grabs is when we’re alone in a waiting room, having a solo meal or coffee, or even standing in a checkout line. As we’ve become more programmed to multitasking and interfacing with our phones than with our surroundings, we quickly retreat to the familiarity of our digital space. Try this. Take one time a day when you find yourself alone. Let’s say you’re grabbing a quick lunch for one. Once you sit down, resist the urge to check your phone.

Next time you’re on a solo outing, resist the urge to check your phone and soak in your surroundings instead.

Spend some time with the menu scanning for errors. Relax and enjoy the savory aromas coming from the kitchen. Create a backstory for that couple in the corner having an intense conversation. Take note of the décor and the furniture. Smile and say hello to someone near your table. In other words, flex your powers of observation and creativity. You may find that you can use these techniques in your work life, especially if your job involves any kind of creativity.

While our phones and electronic devices will remain part of our everyday lives, like anything, relying on them in measured doses is key. Time away from looking down will hone your social skills, develop your creativity and imagination, and may even prevent the dreaded text neck.

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