There was a pretty funny article on CNN.com entitled, “Do you obsessively check your smartphone?” Duh! Of course I do. So does everyone else I know. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN.com’s Senior Medical Correspondent, cites a study in the journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing that showed that test subjects checked their smartphones an average of 34 times a day. According to the study, we’re all a bunch of compulsive Crackberry addicts, and most of us don’t even use Crackberrys anymore. Once you get passed the fact that research professionals needed to confirm what all of us already know, the study illustrates a growing problem we all have. Here’s how to solve it.
Your smartphone has two sets of controls you should learn how to use. First, there’s the sound controls. Turn off everything. You don’t need your phone to ring, you don’t need to know when you get an email and you certainly don’t need to know when you get a txt message. Second, locate the vibrate controls and set your phone ringer to vibrate only, then turn off the vibrator for every other feature of the smartphone.
If you’ve done everything correctly, you phone will now vibrate when someone calls you, and it will do nothing the rest of the time.
Now, find the alarm feature on your smartphone. Set it to repeat every hour (two hours, if you are brave) and set it to vibrate only.
If someone calls you, and you are not busy, you can answer it without bothering anyone. Otherwise, you can just enjoy the vibration (don’t go there … I didn’t) and check your voicemail when you have time to deal with it.
On the hour, when the alarm vibrates, if you are not busy, you can check your email and txt. Force yourself not to check between alarms. Like I said, you’re cured.
Now, some of you are so self-important that you will not want to be cut off from the world for an hour at a time. OK, you can devolve into cyber-symbionts. It’s your choice.
Of course, there are some responsible individual who have kids, parents, grandparents, bosses, clients, etc. whose emergent needs are truly important. For these special individuals, I suggest special ringtones. Every decent smartphone allows you to assign a custom ringer to anyone one on your contact list. Do it.
Have the “Theme from Dragnet” play when your wife calls, the “Red Alert” sound from Star Trek (the original series, of course) play when your boss calls, get creative … after all, when it rings you really need to identify it as an emergent issue that commands your immediate attention.
I admit that these are extreme measures … but let’s face it … we are all addicts. If we were in 12 step programs, they would tell us that we can never own another smartphone. We’d be stuck with flip phones and be carrying around our laptops to check our email. OMG!
How far gone are we? Well, a while back, I was in Hamburg with a colleague and we were having dinner in the hotel restaurant. We were seated close to a couple who were very obviously on one of their first dates. They gazed into each other’s eyes with that look of young love … it was heartwarming … right up to the time that both of them took out their smartphones and started txting – talk about a buzz kill. Five minutes later, they were back on their date, back gazing into each other’s eyes – then about 15 minutes later – you guessed it. Is this the future of dating? If so, I’m glad I’m off the market.
These tools are relatively new, and the have quickly become extensions of our brains and bodies. I don’t think that any of the fixes I’ve offered here will do anything for the truly addicted (like me). I have simply learned which 34 moments are societally acceptable for checking my smartphones (yep, I carry more than one). At some point, as we approach Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity, nanobots will deliver our emails and txt messages directly to our brains. Until then … My name is Shelly. (Group: Hi Shelly) I haven’t checked my email in five minutes (Group: applause). Ugh!