Cell phones are the most integrated pieces of technology in our lives. We use them night and day to work, document our every move through social media and to stay in touch with loved ones. But the constant, always-on connectivity and all of the different things we do with them slowly turn into habits.
I'm hardly ever more than an arm's length away from my phones. Just yesterday, when going to get a refill on my tea at Starbucks, I noticed that I had no problem leaving my m4/3 camera, tablet or MacBook at the table. But I felt the need to grab not one, but both of my phones, in case I were to get a call, text or important email in the minute or two I would be away. And during the 30 seconds it took for the barista to refill my black tea, I had tapped out a couple text messages, checked Twitter and cleaned out my overflowing inbox with complete and utter disregard to the people who were trying to get around me.
It's habits like these that can -- and eventually will -- mature into bad habits.
We tuck into a corner at work to check new text messages, Facebook notifications and Twitter replies when the boss isn't looking; students text below the desk while the teacher gives a lecture; and some people can't stifle their cell phone use long enough to drive a few miles or stop the car to respond to text messages and emails. We can't go more than a few minutes without staring into the giant, hypnotizing displays of our phones and tending to that never-ending, blinking light.
Some of us have become so attentive to the buzzing of our phones that we can't make it through an entire conversation before whipping out the ol' smartphone and tapping out a message in the middle of someone else's story. And the dinner table has become the place for everyone to catch up on emails, Facebook, funny pictures of cats and our favorite blogs. Human interaction just doesn't do it for some of us anymore.
The one that irks me the most, though, is someone at a movie, concert, opera or some other live event who can't pocket their phone for more than a couple minutes. Sorry doesn't make up for your Nokia ringtone interrupting a violinist's solo. And, believe it or not, no matter how hard you try to hide the glaring white display of your phone in a pitch black theater, you still blind everyone around you. I digress …
While others' discourteous use of cell phones may get under my skin, I am no saint. I'm guilty of some pretty obnoxious behaviors myself, from time to time.
I use my phones as scapegoats, for instance. If I'm stuck in a conversation I don't want to be in, my consciousness will slowly drift away, my eyes glaze over and my phone slowly comes out of its sheath. "Go on, I'm listening," I'll say as I blankly stare at the empty notification shade on my phone and endlessly flick through my home screens, pretending to be busy. I do the same thing to avoid awkward situations. In a crowded elevator with other people? Checking the phone instantly makes it less awkward. Walking by someone who I think might want to stop me and talk? Act busy and check for notifications.
Sometimes it's out of my hands and completely unintentional, though. It's as if a barrage of emails, Twitter mentions and text messages are waiting on me to sit down to a nice dinner every night. Or the notification flood gates will open as I start a conversation with someone.
Recently, however, I have made it a point to be more mindful and aware of just how obnoxious I am when both of my cell phones start buzzing every couple seconds. I try not to be rude, even when someone will not stop talking and I'm trying to slip away. And when the notifications at dinner get to a certain point, I silence my phones, ignore the blinking light and enjoy the temporary disconnect. It's actually nice to enjoy the company of people and put the online world on hold on occasion.
Have you noticed your own bad habits with your cell phone? Have you tried to curb them? Or do you continually cut people off and ignore them to respond to the Facebook comment on the mirror self-shot picture you took this morning?