How Smartphones Are Affecting The Virtue Of Presence
While there are benefits to the smartphone like being able to connect with loved ones worldwide, well-being apps and instant directions when you’re lost, studies have also pointed to many dangerous effects of using your phone too much. Not only does it contribute to sleep issues, creates pressure to be online constantly and add to feelings of anxiety and jealousy, it is affecting the quality of relationships in a major way. People are now so attached to their phones that it hinders their ability to be focused, empathetic and ultimately, present.
The virtue of presence
Being present means the ability to be focused and attentive on exactly where you are and what you are doing. If you are with another person, then all your focus and energy is on that person. If you are washing the dishes, then you are concentrating on doing the task at hand. Being present also means being aware of your feelings, needs and thoughts as they arise.
With a culture constantly prone to distraction, the art of presence has become rare. So rare, in fact, that it has become normal to go out to dinner with someone and be on your phone the whole time. Not only does this habit slowly erode focus, it is surefire way to deteriorate and possibly even destroy the quality of a relationship.
How your smartphone affects the ability to be present
In romantic and platonic settings, someone who is using their phone communicates that whatever is happening on their phone is more important than the other person. It can make that person feel underappreciated, undervalued and often robbed of their time and energy.
Furthermore, couples are spending more time engaged on their phone rather than spending quality one-on-one time with their partner which takes a toll on intimacy. The inability to be present with someone you love because of an inappropriate amount of time spent on a smartphone can cause friction and decreases a sense of depth and satisfaction within a relationship.
Parents who are constantly on their smartphone are not fully present to what is happening around and within their children. This can lead to the child feeling emotionally neglected and unimportant, as well as a host of other emotional issues.
Online connectivity is positively changing the business landscape as it encourages the social engagement with people all over the world. Unfortunately, it also means that we are spending less time being present with people in real life. People are now opting to email or text in place of direct person-to-person discussion, and while it is convenient and at times necessary, it is affecting our ability for direct, honest and empathetic communication and conflict resolution.
How can I be more present?
We think we are socialised, but the truth is, we have forgotten the important and rare quality of being focused on another human being. So, how can we practise more presence in our lives?
The best thing you can do when you are with someone is to put your phone away so it is
not visible or turn it off completely. If you do need to send a text or take a call, look the other person in the eye, apologise and say, “I’m really sorry – you are my priority right now but I just need to check/send this off quickly.” Then, proceed with undivided attention.
Another helpful strategy is to download a book app instead of social media apps to avoid mindless scrolling and app-hopping when you’re around people. It is also a good idea to set your phone on silent, turn on “do not disturb” mode or remove notifications completely so it is not constantly distracting you from what you are doing.
If you find that your smartphone use is ruining your relationships, affecting your sleep and leading to depression, remember help is always at hand. BetterHelp offers counselling services with therapists who will help you make sense of this habit and assist you in leading a life uncontrolled by your smartphone.
Not only will applying these strategies increase your well-being and sense of ease, it will lead to happier, healthier and more empathetic relationships — and we know that the quality of your relationship determines the quality of your life.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
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