A New Normal

Americans have not yet processed how to deal with the Smartphone’s ever-presence in daily living. We are only now beginning to address the intrusion these digital devices can create in our public and personal spaces and are starting to develop social norms on how and when we use them.

Being Present and Simultaneously Absent

The problem with Smartphones is that the freedom they afford with the ease-of-access conveys to those around us that we are not available for interaction or real-time social connection. After all, how can you be available to connect when you are only half attending to the world? These technologies in effect shift our experience of time. When our faces are forever pointed downwards, we are indirectly communicating that we are not present. I believe this unconsciously violates our social comfort and produces a disconnected feeling for those around us—the lights are on, but nobody is home and we become digital ghosts, often missing out on real-time living.

If we are psychologically absent much of the time, we are likely missing the nuances of life while losing the ability to tolerate even a moment of boredom. Many normal social cues are lost in the digital landscape. Because digital technologies have a way of altering our perceptions, we lose track of time and often end up spending way too much time going down the digital rabbit hole…

What the Future Holds

My prediction is that many public places will begin to develop digital use policies and incentives to leave our Smartphones off. Some restaurants are even offering meal discounts if you agree to leave your phone in the car…I think that we all know that the Internet and Smartphones are tremendously useful and in the COVID-19 world have become even more indispensable. But sometimes we can get too much of a good thing and miss out on the small things in life that you cannot experience on a screen.

We were not designed for constant accessibility and this creates a stress response from the unending attention necessary to manage all our technology. Our always-on state of arousal elevates our stress hormones leading to our feeling depleted. One way to manage such tech-stress syndrome is to take control of the unpredictable and variable (hence, the addictive, slot machine-like) intrusions of beeps and buzzes from incoming messages and updates and to turn off our phones or at least limit as many notifications as possible. It is likely that you will miss very little, and potentially regain some of your life…