The other day I drove into the parking lot of a busy shopping area and had to stop for a man standing in the middle of the road texting on his phone. I sat there for a minute, hoping he would move out of the way, but he was so engrossed in whatever was on his device, he never acknowledged my presence. I then drove around him and parked, and when I looked back he was still texting.
That experience reminded me of how much we love our cellphones. So much so that I am beginning to wonder if we are becoming too enamored with our screens and less focused on being present.
Over the years, much has been written about the younger generation’s unhealthy dedication to their devices, but perhaps it is time to look at us – Baby Boomers. With more free time on our hands, it’s easy to turn to our devices to keep us company or distract us from the rest of the world. A recent Cigna study on loneliness revealed that a little more than half of Americans (53%) say they have meaningful, daily face-to-face social interactions, which may include an extended conversation with a friend or quality time spent with family. That means that 47% fall into the “lonely” category. In addition, the study also found that people who engage in frequent meaningful in-person interactions have much lower loneliness scores and report better health than those who rarely interact (face-to-face) with others.
This information is important to us in Act 2.5 because as we age our circle of friends becomes smaller, and so does our opportunity to engage with them. As Deb Adams wrote about in her article, Make a Friend, many of us feel lonelier, despite social media, than ever before – so maintaining friendship is important. By limiting the amount of time spent on devices (cellphone, tablet, laptop) you may be surprised at how meaningful face-to-face interactions can become again.
Here are some suggestions on how to shift screen time into more genuine connections:
- When text messages get long enough that you have to scroll through multiple screens think about calling the person to finish the conversation.
- Balance your social interactions throughout the day to include face-to-face conversations. For example, when getting together with friends and family, keep your device out of sight and on silent. Encourage others to do the same.
- Put your phone away when entering a store or restaurant. Make an effort to acknowledge salespeople and servers that are waiting on you. A simple ‘good morning’ can lead to a conversation.
- Stop by a coworker’s desk rather than writing an email to get an answer to a question. Not only will the physical exercise help, it is much more efficient.
- Monitor your screen use with your device’s digital wellbeing or screen time app. The app provides the number of minutes you interact with your phone on a daily and weekly basis.
The bottom line is building more in-person relationships results in a healthier lifestyle. Don’t let your device get in the way between you and the world around you.