Gary Turk may not have know how far reaching his video would be when he wrote, performed, and directed it, but the message that he communicates is definitely resonating with those that remember life without a smartphone. I have personally felt the same concern for my children who knew how to use a smartphone and tablet as early as 2 years old.
Growing up in the 80s, my parent’s had similar concerns about video games. I could play Super Mario Brothers, Contra, Super Tecmo Bowl, and Street Fighter all day long. At the same time, my buddies and I would disappear on our bicycles for hours at a time exploring the neighborhood, woods, or whatever felt adventurous to us at the time. But smartphone addiction is different than a gaming addiction. It is much harder to separate ourselves from a device that people expect us to have on us at all times.
Then it happens. We get to a point where we actually fear being away from our phones. We fear that we are missing something or that we may have to wait in line or in a waiting room with no way to tweet, email, or snapchat how bored we are waiting for something. At Protect Your Bubble, we see it all the time as someone has their device lost, stolen, or damaged. They will file a claim, and we will overnight a device to them. But even in that short turnaround, there is a huge sense of urgency from our customers as they experience the mental anguish of being disconnected.
Gary Turk also did a great job of conveying the danger of our phones becoming our primary or only means of connecting with others. Even to the point where young people have a harder time communicating with others in person or by phone. Aside from communication proficiency, some of the funniest moments in my life were spent sharing a movie with friends, sitting around a campfire sharing stories (that no one had already seen on Facebook), or adventures that we went on in response to being a little bored. Those deep connecting moments are the ones I remember. I don’t remember any funny moments I’ve shared over social media. Even 15 year later, being 1000s of miles apart, I can still call or go visit old friends, and we relive those moments, and it is literally like we never moved apart. That’s a real connection and worth the effort of “Looking Up”.
Here are a few tips if you are trying to Look Up and connect better:
Have a place in your home where you park your phone. A place were it can charge and be away from you. Give your phone some space. Change the ringtones for important people in your life and only go check if it rings with those tones. It will help you engage better in your home and to ignore the unimportant noises that grab our attention if the phone is always in your pocket. I even have a buddy that keeps his work phone in the garage so that he doesn’t even hear it after hours. It has a nice parking spot in the garage where it can rest for the next busy day.
“Look at the Phone, Pick up the Tab”
If you are at dinner with friends, you can each put your smartphone on vibrate and leave them on the table facing up at the center of the table. When someone calls, emails, etc, the phone will light up. The goal of the game is to not get caught looking at the phone at all. The first person to do it, or the person who looks the most, has to pick up the tab for dinner. Make a big deal about it when you catch them sneaking a peak on the sly too. If you are at home with the family, that person has to do the dishes before they get their phone back.
Engage People in Real Conversation
How good are you at engaging people? More than tweet-sized texts and small talk about weather, sports, etc. What are fun things do you like to know about people? Instead of stalking them on Facebook, engage them in real life. Put together a list of questions in your mind that you want to know about others. My wife and I have a list of questions we ask our kids at the dinner table – like what animal or super hero would you be – and the responses are hysterical.
People love to talk and laugh about themselves – they just need a prompt. It could be as simple as asking someone to tell you their story or how they got to where they are today. Ask them dream level questions…what they love to do if they had all the time and money in the world to do it, what would their dream job look like, what is the funniest thing that has ever happened to them, what adventure would they like to go on, etc. Learn what questions engage people and go looking for opportunities to use them. People will be less likely to check their vibrating smartphones when you have them engaged in fun conversations.
Pay Attention & Be Polite
The smartphone has become a refuge from talking to people in stores, on elevators, and in line, but prioritize being polite over getting 5 extra seconds of screentime. If the message can be sent by your phone, it can probably wait for you to open the door for someone or to acknowledge the hostess at a restaurant. Its usually not intentional, but staring at our phones can come off as rude and obnoxious to those that need us to be responsive in the coffee line. Most of us would keep our eye up if we knew that others thought we were being rude or obnoxious.
DWT – Driving While Texting
If you have a tendency to check your phone at red lights or as you approach intersections, watch the sidewalks. There are tons of bikers, runners, and others on the sidewalk or on the edge of the road whose lives depend on too many people looking at their cellphones while driving. I run a lot, and the number of people looking down while driving is jaw dropping. My friends and I have countless stories of close calls and many of them involve a cell phone. According to Textinganddrivingsafety.com, 1 out of 4 wrecks involve cell phones and that you are 23 times more likely to have a wreck when looking at your smartphone’s screen. Just keep in mind that not everyone is protected from you by their vehicle and pay attention when the phone lights up.
Explore Now, Tweet Later
Go somewhere where the messages on your phone seem trivial. Go hiking and listen to nature. Go for a run or a walk in a peaceful or scenic place. Go to a sporting event or a concert soak up the experience. I’m terrible about seeing the sites when I travel for business, but hate sitting in my hotel room. Going for a run in a new place has become my mainstay, and I’m amazed at how much of a city you can take in when running around it. Even if you don’t run, just go explore. You can take pictures, but tweet them later in the day.
Turn off the Things that go Ding
Your phone probably doesn’t need to make as much noise as it does. Turn off the alerts and dings for non-critical apps or messages. I laugh when the generic Apple SMS ding rings and 10 people pull their phones out. If it doesn’t need your immediate attention, it doesn’t need to ding. It is also great to customize dings and rings for the top people in your life so that you know when they are trying to reach you and when the rest of the world is pressing. You’ll have better restraint to keep it in your purse or pocket if you have a better idea of who is contacting you.
And finally, as you walk down the street, sit at a restaurant, and talk to people, notice how hard it really is for us all to Look Up. Laugh at how bad we are at it, and make mental notes about where you should look up in your life. Good work Mr. Turk. There may be someone out there that meets someone special because of your challenge to Look Up. These devices are great and important, but the connections and the level of engagement we have with the world around us is much more important.