We are buzzing people living in a buzzing world.
Our lives have never been so stimulating, incessant and full.
Cellphones create all-access tickets for anyone to chime into our purse or pants pockets. As Nicolas Carr wrote in The Shallows, they turn us into “lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment.”
We scroll through them like drugs.
And aren’t they drugs?
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Research firm dScout reports the average person touches their cellphone more than 2,500 times a day.
No, that’s not a misprint. It’s a constant fondle.
When we’re scrolling through social media we’re always comparing our Director’s Cut life with everyone else’s Greatest Hits. Not only that, but clinical psychologist Amanda Gamble conducted a study called “Adolescent Sleep Patterns and Night-Time Technology Use” and found that many of us are taking our devices to bed as brightly lit alarm clocks, books and TVs.
We’re depriving our brain of the downtime necessary as artificial screen light messes with our circadian rhythms and reduces production of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep.
And don’t get me started on “texting thumb” or the new health problems cropping up.
But what’s the solution?
None of us want to sacrifice the massive benefits cellphones give us, but we know we need to be careful they don’t get in the way of our happiness.
So I suggest three very small things:
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Place cellphones on charge in the basement
Sounds silly but it works. When you keep your power chargers in the basement you’re much less likely to walk down the extra floor or two whenever you think of that “one last email” you need to send before bed. For me, it also helps separate work and life a little better. When I get home I drop off my bag in the basement and plug my phone in before coming upstairs to play with the kids.
No screens in the first or last hour of the day
You don’t jar your brain senseless with an electron-smattering flood to your eyeballs first thing in the morning. Let your thoughts unfold and open up naturally. Let important rise above urgent. And no screens before bed helps with that melatonin production. Think about the warm-up and cool down you give your body when you go to the gym. Give the same favour to your mind each day.
Live in airplane mode
Your cellphone pushes things at you all day. Notifications. Texts. Alerts. It’s intense. I say airplane mode isn’t just for airplanes. Live in airplane mode and you’ll actively flip your device from a push system to a pull system where you’ve taken back control. Just flip it out of airplane mode to answer texts or make your calls and then flip back in.
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So be the boss of your cellphone.
And don’t let your cellphone be the boss of you.
This post originally appeared on thestar.com, the digital home of The Toronto Star.