‘I don’t know how mums survived pre-smartphones’, said the wonderful Ruth as she rocked her 3-month old beautiful boy, Will Wyatt, to sleep to the sounds of white noise from a mobile phone app.
It was our first meet up since the fabulous Ruth had left our team on maternity, and our first encounter with her adorable son. Roz and I smiled… the wonders of modern parenthood. And as Ruth (the calmest and most organised Mum ever!) told us tales of Will’s first months of life, she said how useful the mobile had been for so many things, including the simple alarm for feeding times. As I walked home I thought about my love-hate relationship with my mobile, and how it gives and takes simultaneously, dependent of course on its owner’s actions.
It was a 4-hour catch up of ‘Three Ladies and a Baby’ and throughout it I didn’t check my mobile once. Heaven. But it did come out – to take photos and to share them too. I’ve always been one to never use my mobile on social occasions, coffees, catch-ups and meals out – unless in an emergency, or of course to take some snaps. And as I walked to the tube in London, switched on my heating at home from afar, spoke to someone who was standing at my front door through my Ring app, and messaged a friend abroad, I remembered what a positive thing technology can be. I’d be a hypocrite if I thought otherwise given my latest venture is launching a mobile app to support children’s mental health! As we all know, it is simply how we humans use the technology that is all-important.
According to the OFCOM report, A Decade of Digital Dependency, released in August 2018, the average Briton checks their phone every 12 minutes. 40 per cent of adults look at their phone within five minutes of waking up, and 37 per cent of adults check them just before switching off the lights for bed. Interestingly, over half admitted they interrupted face-to-face conversation.
As you all know ‘Digital Detox’ and ‘Phone Sabbath’ are two of the tools in the 21-Days to Happiness package, and since we launched it over 3 years ago now, there have been so many articles released about device addiction. There are apps to help us monitor our usage, books to address our technical cravings, and ongoing research looking into the negative impact of our online behavior. Yet with 5G no longer a thing of the future, and our lives set to become more technically driven than ever, my observations as I watch those around me is that our device addiction is increasing not decreasing. I see people ignoring each other at tables in restaurants as they swipe on their phones, checking emails as they are ‘listening’ to a speaker at an event, choosing social media over an in-person interaction.
So last weekend I decided that I would use my mobile for good and not bad. Not a full digital detox – that was asking too much! I checked emails only once a day. I only looked at text and WhatsApp messages in the morning and evening. Social media was easy for me (I know not for others) since I don’t tend to use it. Nada. And I switched notifications off. But… I took lots of photos. And I shared even more. I controlled my heating. I checked in on Archie on his kitchen camera before bed. Followed by a beautiful meditation from one of my favourite apps. The balance was just right.
Our phones are going nowhere – that is for sure. A lovely friend last week took me through some of his 300 apps on his phone – many of which controlled his new ‘smart’ home and others which just made his life easier – much like Ruth and Will. (My top pick from George was PlantSnap, an app that identifies any plant, anywhere in the world, in seconds!). As he reviewed each app one by one, I could see the joy some gave him, the peace of mind others, and the straightforward practical implications of many. How technology can be embraced for good, I thought. But, I also know that it’s a fine line between our phones enhancing or diminishing our lives. And I decided however many tips I read or tried (this article has some great suggestions) a healthy approach to my mobile phone came down to one thing for me – mindful use of the technology. Knowing that I was in the driving seat and it wasn’t driving me. On that note I am off to read an article about autonomous cars.