Smart phones. Tablets. Lifelines. We are always connected.
I am just as guilty as the next smart phone user. My phone isn’t far from my hand — usually in my back pocket or at the bottom of my purse. I can be found scanning my phone at any point in the day. I check it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
As a military spouse, the smart phone takes on a life of its own. It becomes your lifeline; your only connection to your service member, whether it be a text, email or video chat. This dependency is valid and necessary. During a deployment, it’s how you make it through the day.
As a society, we are dependent on our smart phones for access to the internet, all our social media platforms and my favorite — FOMO. The fear of missing out.
The more I thought about the digital dependency, the more I thought about a digital detox. I started scanning some studies and discovered a word I hadn’t heard before. It was in a New York Times article and the term they used was “phubbing.” Basically, phone plus snubbing. Are you snubbing relationships with your spouse, family or friends because of your smart phone?
Our phones do a lot. It provides information, gives you directions, keeps you up to date on friends, family and current events. You can even ask it questions. It also is a time waster — you know how it happens. You open the Facebook app, start scanning your feed and an hour later, you haven’t accomplished much except lots of likes or loves on your friends’ posts. Yes, I speak from experience.
Being present in your relationships is the key to success and constantly being on your smart phones doesn’t help.
Last year, Baylor University conducted a study on smart phone use. They found that 47 percent of their respondents reported being “phubbed” and those folks reported higher levels of conflict in their relationships.
As I write this, I guess the same could be said for video games. We don’t play them in our family, but they are widely popular and could be impacting personal relationships.
So the overwhelming use of technology is not going to disappear from our worlds, but there are things we can do to stay present in our relationships.
Ditch the phones at the dinner table. This is a big one for me — we already do this in our house. And when the kids are visiting, the same goes for them. We don’t get much time just to sit down with each other. Life gets in the way, but the dinner table is a place where we can disconnect from our devices and connect with each other.
Ditching the phones at restaurants is another one. I am less disciplined about this one. We have all been out to breakfast, lunch or dinner and seen everyone around their table playing on their phones. I am all for a good Instagram food picture, but you can grab the photo, put your phone away and post it later.
Think you are not on your phone that much? Try announcing when you are checking something on your phone — checking the score, weather or social media. It will give you an idea of how often you pick up your phone while you are interacting with others.
There are many suggestions out there for a true digital detox: don’t check your phone after 7 p.m., keep your phones out of the bedroom or go mobile-free on a weekend.
There are circumstances where you may not be able to do this. For military spouses, it is during deployments or training exercises. For others, it may be that your job demands round-the-clock availability.
Find ways to create reasonable boundaries that will allow you to stay present.
Reena O’Brien is an Army spouse and Herald correspondent. She lives on Fort Hood.