With our phones finding their way into just about every aspect of our lives -- and our screen time growing and growing -- have you stopped to ask yourself whether your digital habits are getting in the way of real human connection?
Connecting with your digital devices is a job for many, an addiction for some, and an obsession for others.
I asked some people walking near the heart of Detroit on their lunch break – many with smartphones in hand – whether or not they could separate themselves from their cell phones.
Most said no.
“You know, it's hard. I do try!” admitted Stefani Greenspan of Birmingham.
“Do you think it's having a negative impact on us emotionally at all?” I asked.
Greenspan responded, “I do."
Digital Wellness expert Mark Ostach agreed.
"I always share that we are warm blooded creatures, and these are cold blooded devices,” he said holding up his smartphone.
Ostach -- who has degrees in psychology and technology -- speaks to companies and organizations on the “Psychology of Technology.”
One of his presentations includes his spoken word ditty called “Disconnect Me:”
But up and down my eyes they go
From post to post.
And the endless updates
They make me choke!
But still I choose to hold this phone!”
His goal is to teach people how to defeat distractions so we – as humans – can connect with purpose – both at home and at work to reduce stress and improve our relationships.
"Some of our relational skills are in danger as a society,” Ostach explained. "We've turned into more of transactional communicators as opposed to relationship connectors."
Ostach said digital wellness can lead to more satisfaction at work and a reduction in employee burnout…plus better personal relationships.
"Email sometimes is the backbone of our day and drives our To Do lists and drives our intention, as opposed to setting your email aside for an afternoon and picking up the phone and calling that person who's been on your heart all day,” he said.
So, he's come up with Five Ways to Improve Your Digital Wellbeing.
5 WAYS TO IMPROVE DIGITAL WELLBEING:
- NO DIGITAL GADGETS AT MEALTIME. Enjoy the food and connect with others. Leave the devices out of arm's reach so the temptation is not there.
- SLEEP DEVICE-FREE. GET A REAL ALARM CLOCK! Our digital world has been shown to be a major sleep disruptor. So, place the smartphone in the bathroom if you're checking it at times through th
- TAKE A DIGITAL FAST FOR AT LEAST 1 HOUR A DAY. Try it at the same time of day to start a habit. Mark Ostach said he leaves all screens for an entire hour when he gets home from work, and it's one of the best things he's ever done.
- MAKE EYE CONTACT WHEN TALKING. You’re gathering emotional cues and truly listening when you’re not looking down at your device.
- END YOUR DIGITAL DAY 1 HOUR BEFORE GOING TO BED. Winding down is essential for the body to fall asleep.
He ends many of his seminars by asking people to raise their right hand and take the Cell Phone Pledge.
He believes this helps them re-affirm their commitment to their digital wellbeing.
“I promise not to let my phone get in the way of making meaningful connects. I solemnly swear that my digital device will not shape identity. Amen!” he laughed after giving me the pledge.
He also recommends people find a Digital Accountability Partner to help kee
His best piece of advice? Go outside and get some fresh air!
If you have a story idea for Alicia Smith’s Living a Better Life series on WXYZ, please email Alicia at firstname.lastname@example.org .