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I sat at the coffee shop a while back and watched as a group of high school girls entered one after another. All seven of them huddled around a table meant for four next to me. I slowly paused what I was working on and found myself watching them out of the corner of my eye. I could not help but notice that each of them began scrolling through social media.
After a few minutes, I observed only one of the girls engage in a real conversation. It made me a little sad as I watched her try to peel her friends away from scrolling, but none of the girls seemed to want to look away from their screens. It got me thinking about the importance of being together when we are together. Often, the most important relationships are the ones unfolding right in front of us, yet somehow, we miss the mark.
Now, to be clear, I am a user of social media. However, I think boundaries are imperative. I believe the one skill we all need to master, no matter our age, is to learn to put our phone away. Many of us treat our phones as another appendage, so let us begin with baby steps. Here are five crucial moments in our lives we need to learn to ditch the devices.
1. First thing in the morning
The morning hours should sacredly be yours. I know, I know. You are afraid you could have missed something overnight, but glancing at your device first thing makes it difficult to prioritize your day. The experts say it can create increased anxiety. It is not ideal for us to feel overwhelmed first thing in the morning by emails, alerts, and missed messages. Instead, utilize this time to set yourself up for success and plan your intentions and goals for the day. In the morning, do things that are going to calm your soul. Sip slowly on coffee, write in a gratitude journal, eat breakfast solo or with the family, or tackle your workout session.
2. During an important task that requires your attention
As a writer, it takes a lot of creative brain energy to develop thoughts and dive into deep thinking. I cannot even think about having my phone face up. If I see a text or notification, I will feel pressured to be responsive or end up multi-tasking, which slows me down. Instead, while you are working on something important, place the phone in a drawer or away from you so that you can have complete focus.
3. At the dinner table
Dinner with your family at night is a time that we should use to have meaningful conversations. Our hectic lives can make it problematic to stay connected, and we do not need our phones to create more of a distraction. Use time around the table to place all of life’s problems or interruptions on pause and appreciate the moments you have with loved ones. Make it a phone-free zone and watch what happens.
4. When you should be living in the moment
Learning to live in the moment is not always easy. For many of us, it is why we have angst centered around feeling uneasy on Sundays or have a case of the Monday blues. Our lives sans phones already leave us with an anxious driven mentality as it is. Learning to be mindful and present by putting our phones out of sight when necessary can make us feel we have control over our lives and our devices, and not the other way around. Catching up with a friend you have not seen in a while, relaxing at the beach, or spending time away with a significant other are memories in the making.
5. When you are feeling down
Having a bad day is bound to happen to every single one of us. The issue is many of us never see these inconveniences posted to a social media account. Most of the time, we only see the highlight reel. When you are down and out, it may not cheer you up to see everyone else’s filtered fun photos. Instead, give yourself a pick-me-up by walking, journaling, listening to your favorite music, or diving into some self-care. When you are upset, your body and your mind need extra love and attention, and glancing at other people’s photos is not doing you any favors.