Local News

Is your phone ruining your life?

“She might as well not be there. It’s like having a black hole in the room that just sucks the energy from the place.”

By Cat Rodie
It’s a typical night in the Baker household and David and Leigh are relaxing on the couch. The kids are asleep in their beds and the TV is on.
But while it might look like the couple are spending time together there is actually a huge barrier between them – Leigh’s mobile phone.
“Every night Leigh is glued to her phone,” David complains.
“She might as well not be there. It’s like having a black hole in the room that just sucks the energy from the place.”
While Leigh thinks that she is simply checking in on Facebook and Instagram, her partner feels like she is wasting their precious time together.
“Even if you just sit there in silence it’s more of a shared experience than someone burying themselves in the imaginary world of social media,” he says.
This isn’t a problem that is restricted to couples. In fact you don’t have to go far to see someone with their head buried in their phone while a friend waits to get their attention.
In fact it seems that some people just can’t put their phone down at all.
Psychologist and digital nutritionist Jocelyn Brewer says that for some people reaching for their phone has just become an unconscious habit.
“There is a reward pathway in the brain that gives you a squirt of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine in anticipation of using your smartphone. We are designed to seek opportunities for pleasure and as such a 'hunters and gathers' of these snippets of good feelings,” she explains.
However, Brewer says that mobile phones in themselves don’t have a negative impact. Problems only arise because of the choices we make about them.
According to Brewer, if someone uses their phone as a way to escape negative feelings (for example, picking up your phone to distract yourself rather than being alone with your thoughts) it can create a pattern that we repeat with people too.
“One of the bigger things that impact our relationship is our communication styles and willingness to engage in connection about 'bigger' issues like hope, fears and internal conflicts.
“Smartphone are a way to mediate that communication, both by avoiding the ‘in real life’ conversations and by shaping the depth of the relationships we have,” she explains.
Of course there are lots of ways that our phones can have a very positive impact on our lives. But when our friends, partner or children are starting to feel neglected it might be time to re-think our phone habits.
Brewer notes that to have a healthier relationship with technology we should keep the ‘three M’s of digital nutrition’ in mind.
“Bring mindfulness, meaning and moderation to your technology use,” she says.
Brewer suggests asking yourself the following questions before you reach for your smart phone:
• How do I feel in my mind and body before I go online?
• What am I truly seeking when I go online?
• How does being online change my feelings or physical sensations?
• How can I get better at 'reading' and 'listening' to these cues?
• How can I remain focused and present while online?
• How is what I am viewing/reading relevant to or aligned to my goals?
• How does this action/activity contribute in a positive way to my life and overall sense of wellness?
• How can I tell if I am over-reacting to a situation online?
• What would happen if I did not respond to that tweet/comment/post/message?
• What strategies or digital hacks can I use to mediate my time online and ensure I dont 'overdose'?
• How do I notice when it's time to logoff/take a break?

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