At a conference last weekend, I found myself surrounded by people who were being extremely social…with their phone.
Despite hundreds of actual human beings within a few feet, the majority were head down, face illuminated, typing away, even as they were interacting.
According to the Pew Research Center this is as unsurprising as it is unrewarding. 90% people report texting or emailing while also conversing with a person in person, yet 82% of adults say using a cellphone instead of making eye contact hurts conversation in social gatherings.
And I was just as guilty.
Admittedly, my phone is my social crutch. It’s the thing I lean on when I don’t know what to say, do or feel awkward.
James Roberts, PhD a leading research specialist on cell phone addiction would say my phone reliance helps manage my internal discomfort. “Because technology plays such an integral part of our lives, smartphones easily become the object of choice.”
Which is a big loss. By choosing the comfort of my phone instead of human interaction, I stand to lose the fundamental benefits of actual communication.
Speaking isn’t just about sound it’s heavily reliant on sight. (Plus you can fall into a fountain if you are walking and texting and not looking. And that might even happen while you are at a conference. Maybe. In Boston. Just saying, I’ve never done that…no, really. Okay, just keep reading…it happened once. No one saw. Doesn’t count.)
James Borg, an authority on body language says human communication consists of 93% body language and only 7% word selection. Face to face communication has withstood time and technology as being the very best way to build relationships and avoid misunderstandings. A recent Forbes study revealed that of 760 business executives 84% prefer face to face communication noting it is the most persuasive and engaging way to network. Missing a sly smile, a shoulder shrug or an eyebrow raise could cause a comment to be taken out of context and misunderstood. Watching what is said, can net means bigger gains from the conversation.
Habits are hard to break but I am going to try to wean away my phone crutch by doing these 3 things:
1.) Intentionally draw attention to my phone. My line will be “I am really glad to be talking to you, here, let me just put this in my purse so I can give you my undivided attention.” Probably the person will feel valued by that comment and maybe they will put their phone away too.
2.) I am also going to play a game with myself and track the eye color of the people I talk to. Will there be more brown eyes or blue? This will force me to make eye contact and find purpose to remember their color putting me in the present and keeping me there.
3.) Knowing I’m a creature of habit, if I do slip up and take my phone out for no reason, I’m going to note the time and give myself two minutes before I make myself put it away.
If you try these tips please let me know what shakes out.
If you have other ideas please share them…and just saying if you have ever fallen into a fountain at the Wylie Inn and Conference Center, or another one, please also share… Wise people say things like “We are not alone” and I am like “Okay, well, then…prove it.”