What if you turned off your smartphone today?

Reading time: Less than 3 minutes

I like smartphones as much as the next person. But I also know there’s a good time to turn off your smartphone….

When my brother-in-law comes to our house for dinner he knows I’ll require him to step away from the table if he wants to check his smartphone. He likes to tease me about my rule but he mostly abides by it, if somewhat grudgingly. 

Even though I LOVE technology, I have never been convinced that it has no downside.

Sure, I like the way Microsoft Word allows me to move text easily and delete errant words with the click of a button. Yeah, I find my pedometer (which syncs with my phone) helps keep me more active and allows me to track my exercise with ease. And, yes, I adore listening to podcasts when I go out for walks.

But I will not allow my smartphone to take over my life. In fact, when I examined a Pew Research Center report on how Americans use text messaging, I could see that I fall into the “light user” category. I usually don’t send more than five texts a day (almost never more than 10) when the average is closer to 41.5. And young adults — 18- to 24-year-olds— send or receive an average of 109.5 texts per day. Yikes!

When researching this topic, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised to discover a post headlined: “A Writer’s Greatest Tool: The Smartphone.”  I checked the photo of author David Pierce, and I pegged him to be in his early 20s. His enthusiasm for smartphones is also very young. “I’m a writer, and I don’t carry a notebook around with me,” he wrote. “Heck, I don’t even carry a pen. Do people even use those anymore? Pens. So old school. Instead, I just use my cell phone. In my life as a writer, there’s been no tool more useful or worth the investment than a smartphone. I’m convinced that it’s a writer’s greatest tool!”

Here are the five reasons Pierce cites for his affection for smartphones. He likes that they allow writers to:

  • Remember everything
  • Write when it strikes
  • Read
  • Get instant feedback
  • Never stop learning

While I value the handiness of smartphones, I don’t welcome their ubiquity in all parts of our lives. So, let me ask David Pierce this:

When is it ever a good idea to write on a phone? The idea of using my fat thumbs to do anything more than send a quick text message to one of my kids makes me feel tired and nauseated. I can’t envision writing a blog post that way and certainly not any words for my next book. Ditto for editing. Why would I want to create that sort of headache for myself?

Why read on a phone? I always have a book with me and when I’m wanting to be au courant (or if my purse is too full of other stuff), I carry my Kindle.

Why do you need instant feedback? Now, you’re just sounding impatient and jejune. I understand the benefits of Facebook and Twitter. I just don’t think anyone needs them 24/7 except perhaps the American president.

Do you really need to be learning all the time? I’m a big believer in continuing education, but I think there also needs to be a time when we can let our minds wander.

In fact, it’s during the mind-wandering times we’ll get the ideas about what we want to say. If we’re constantly trying to stay connected and cram our brains full of information, we’ll never have the time or the space to think. Having something worthwhile to say, takes thought. And if we’re constantly creating or digesting, we don’t have time for that.

But I’m not going to tell you to give up your smartphone. Instead, I suggest you think more wisely about when and how you use it. Set some times of day when it will be off limits. (Mealtimes and writing times are good places to begin. Ditto for time with friends.) Make sure you have some regular interactions with real people, not their avatars or digital selves. Get yourself outside more often so that you can get exercise and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the natural world.

And if you want to start all this by turning off your smartphone for just one a day, I think that would be a great way to launch 2018.

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My video podcast last week aimed to help readers to improve their LinkedIn networks. See it here and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel.  If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.

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How much do you depend on your smartphone?  We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Jan. 31/18, will be put in a draw for a copy of Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest.