Put down that phone and tune into life!

A pet peeve in my personal life is when folks are attached at the wrist to their phones. You know the ones...you can't have a relaxed, focused, mindful, connected conversation with them because they are not fully present. Rather, they are attempting to exist in two places at once, checking text messages while trying to carry on a conversation with you.

This is beyond disrespectful and sends a message that you are not as important as what is happening on their phone.

In order to support my boundaries, I send out a gentle reminder to my friends, family, and loved ones in the New Year letting them know that when we get together my phone will be set aside during our lunch, dinner, visit or hike. I respectfully invite them to do the same.

As a therapist, I ask that my clients turn off their phones and put them away in session and in group. In fact, it is one of the indicators I use when tracking growth in clients. Can the client put away their phone for the entire 50 minute session without checking? Are they able to leave their phone in their pocket or purse during group? Can they silence it without a buzz, ding, or light flashing? Do they take their personal calls outside rather than speaking loudly in the reception area while waiting for their session? What is their response or reactivity toward me as their Therapist when I maintain this boundary?

I also assess whether the client uses their phone as a defense tool or tool of control by sending long or frequent text messages to me (which is a boundary violation as a clinician). Does the client send frequent, angry, or long messages to friends, family or employees? Does the client use their phone as a way of acting out, as a tool of deception, or having unhealthy conversations in their personal life? Is the client frequently late to sessions/group, or other areas of life and work because they are distracted on their smart phone? Do their friends, family, clients, coworkers, children and others make subtle (or not so subtle) jokes, or share their frustrations with the client on their use of their smart phone? Does the client make excuses or become defensive for not having boundaries with their smart phone?

Common excuses I hear:

  • I have kids
  • I am a business owner
  • My wife will need to get ahold of me
  • My clients need to be in touch with me at all times

We've all heard these excuses. I’ve even used some of them. If we stop and reflect...businesses ran and prospered, children were raised just fine, and life went on for years, decades and centuries without smartphones controlling our lives.

There are many healthy benefits for all of us with current technology. I appreciate having a smartphone and living in this time in our world. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my iPhone and it's time-saving and convenient benefits. However, learning to have personal integrity and using technology to foster health, balance, and responsibility is wise and an indicator of growth and healing. We can stay connected virtually AND be fully present when in person.

Bottom line: Life will not end if I don't check my phone every five minutes.

And there are certain ring tones that can be set for important alerts if I am expecting a very important call, or dealing with an emergency.

Challenge for each of us this week: Turn if off and tune in!

I invite you to share what you realized after turning off your phone. Did you find you were able to engage more fully in conversations and experiences. Or did you notice that you had some anxiety about not checking your phone so frequently? Please share in the comments below.