I absolutely love technology, especially when it comes in the form of a beautiful, sleek, brand new phone.
There’s nothing like exploring the features of a new phone and discovering all of the ways that it is going to make your life easier. Pure joy. Last week, my phone stopped working for a day and instantly I was thrown back in time about 16 years to when I actually had to find a land line to make a phone call. I could feel productivity slipping through my hands. Our world has shifted into a supersonic instant information super highway and in many ways that is a good thing. However, I have begun to notice something: Rather than finding a balance in our lives with all of this wonderful technology, we are allowing it to take over. I’m not talking Terminator Cyborgs, but there are some major life skills we are losing as humans because we are constantly preoccupied with our cell phones.
Now, if you are under the age of 22, I realize that what I am saying here sounds insane. But before you write me off completely, let me give you some examples of how relying on your phone is actually zapping your confidence and causing you to miss real opportunities:
#1. It’s a crutch.
Yes, your cell phone is a crutch for you in all of those uncomfortable life moments. I enjoy jogging in the early evening and without fail every time someone passes by on my jogging route my hand seemingly involuntarily grasps my phone. It takes every ounce of will power to keep my phone in my pocket, look the other person in the eye and give a little nod as they pass. Somehow, looking down and appearing preoccupied on my phone as someone passes by is much more comfortable than acknowledging them. And it’s not just while jogging, the next time you are in a crowded place, notice the amount of people who are looking down at their phones rather than observing the world and the people around them.
Why is this a problem? Because needing a crutch screams “insecure.” I’ve attended events where girls would not look up from their phones for 2 minutes (no exaggeration) simply due to the insecurity they were feeling in that situation. They NEEDED that phone. The problem with a crutch is, everyone else knows it’s a crutch too. So if you are aiming to appear confident (whether you feel it or not) pocket your phone, look up and smile at the world.
#2. You miss opportunity.
By constantly occupying yourself with your phone, you are missing meaningful connections and potential opportunities. I’m not talking “love connections” here, I’m simply talking about connecting with the world around you. Over the last few years I’ve spoken to many people who feel more comfortable communicating via text rather than in person or on the telephone.
Why is this a problem? Because we are losing confidence. Every time you rely on your phone to fill in the empty space or to preoccupy your eye contact, you begin to lose the confidence that it takes to step forward and make a meaningful connection with someone new. You are not forcing yourself to sharpen your people skills. Employers are looking for people who know how to communicate effectively. Knowing how to engage others, speak well and confront others productively gives you an incredible edge and sets you up for promotion. And if you’ve ever considered starting your own business, then you’d better know how to communicate outside of a text message. Not only will you be handling employees but, to be successful, you will need to network with clients and other professionals – the sort of people who can determine very quickly whether or not you are capable of carrying a conversation. So the next time you find confrontation looming before you, fight the urge to text, see how much more productive you will be by handling it in person. You might just save a friendship.
#3 You become dangerously unaware.
Etiquette, confidence and opportunity aside, preoccupation with your cell phone makes you easy prey for criminals. If your head is buried in your phone, you will not be aware when you wander into a dangerous situation. Most of us have seen the ridiculous YouTube videos of people on their cell phones making stupid mistakes and blunders because they are distracted. Unfortunately, criminals are opportunists and they recognize very quickly when your attention is divided. When I jog, I force myself to look up and nod, not simply to be polite but also to let the other person know that I am aware of their presence, I am paying attention.
Again, I absolutely love technology and when used properly, cell phones actually help keep us safe by allowing us to have quick contact with police and emergency personal. But I challenge you to not lose yourself in your technology. Look up, smile, pay attention. Fight the zombies.