Monday, December 23, 2013

ATTENTION! The Best Christmas Present Ever

Watching and wanting to be with you, tech free.

Since this is the shopping season of the year, I'm going to tell you what your family and friends really want for Christmas this year...your undivided attention. 

It really is the easiest gift to give, yet it seems like the hardest to find. Last week USA Today interviewed me for a feature article about the reasons kids should 'unplug' over the holidays. I was able to share some insight on why kids are attached to their phones and ideas on how to help kids focus on quality time, not constant use of their devices over the holidays.

After my discussion with the writer, I started reflecting on some recent conversations with friends. Many have vented how frustrating it is when someone you are trying to spend time with is constantly checking his or her phone. We all are guilty and probably think, "I'll just check my phone for one second." Before you know it, time has passed and you've missed the opportunity to be in the moment with the one you are with.  Meal outings seem to be a huge trigger when it comes to the addiction associated with phones. You probably have heard about the "Phone Stack" game. Friends or family put their cell phones in the middle of the table during dinner and whoever checks it first pays the bill. Great idea, but what about other times of the day?

How do we subtly encourage others to put their devices down and relish the time with those around them?

The above video is one of my favorite videos that has gone viral. It's a 2 minute video of a girl who didn't use her phone all day and the observations she made, experiences she had with the overuse of smartphones.  I showed it to all my grad and undergrad students this semester and we discussed the challenges of enjoying these special moments throughout the day... tech-free. They all agreed they have been in similar situations. We talked about how we can not become complacent when it comes to technology ruling our lives. 

As we strive to find that balance and enjoy our times together over the winter break and beyond, here are some tips for the holidays and the new year:

1. Everyone does it: That's right, if you want your special someone to put their device down then you need to as well. This seems like common sense, but we have to model the behavior we wish to see. How about making a pact together, no cell phone use during the hour you are together, or if he/she does need to take that phone call, it's quick and back to being together with out that metal distraction.

2. Talk about it, often: One reminder every few months is not going to change anyone's behavior. Having discussions with your friends or family and actually role playing is very helpful.  You can discuss how it makes you feel when he or she is preoccupied with their digital device while you are trying to appreciate each other's company.

3. Agree on boundaries:  Quitting cold turkey doesn't always work, so come up with a plan on when and where it is acceptable to use the phone. Remember MODERATION should be the goal, having balance. When alone, think of ways to also avoid the constant interaction with your mobile device. There's much to be said about the life of the soul, the life of the simple stillness.

4. What's necessary:  It is crucial to take 25 pictures at one event? Can that game wait until after dinner?  Do you really have to instantly reply to that text or message? Getting back to basics is the key to moving forward.

5. It's a new year: Perfect time to set some resolutions on how to improve our relationships and unplug from a device that can control our lives. In the end, it is just a THING, not a live person.

Let's enjoy the holidays and new year. Give the gift that keeps on giving...quality time making memories and living your REAL life. Silence your phones, stack them on a table, put them away for a few hours and enjoy the REAL people around you. 

Unplugging doesn't mean you can't be connected with the world, 
it inspires you to be connected with those who mean the most.

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