Do you ever feel like your smartphone is calling to you even when it’s just sitting in your pocket not doing anything? When your phone beeps, vibrates, or buzzes, do you ask yourself, “Why is my phone doing this to me?!?”
When I speak to people about using mindfulness to help develop healthier relationships with technology, these are the kinds of things that I often hear from them. I feel these things myself — the feeling that the phone is like a living being that’s doing something to us, calling to us, or trying to attract our attention.
It seems that this feeling is very common. It feels as though these devices are acting on us. I’m calling this a feeling rather than a fact, and it’s a perfect type of feeling to apply some mindfulness to.
Pause and Apply Some Mindfulness
What I’ve found from my many years of working with technology, mindfulness, and other people is that not applying mindfulness to that feeling can contribute to many of the problems we experience in relation to our technology.
Think about your phone sitting in your pocket or somewhere else, but not in your hands. You feel an urge, which is often called a craving in Buddhism, to pull out your phone and check Facebook or your email. At that moment, it may feel like the phone is pulling you, but if you were to pause, engage in some mindful reflection, and ask yourself, “What is actually happening now?” what would your answer be?
This is part of what mindfulness is — an attempt to see the present moment for what it is without a filter.
Step back at that moment and ask yourself, “Is this phone doing anything right now?” If you see the phone for what it is, you will see that it’s not physically doing anything. It’s just sitting there. If you feel as though the phone is pulling you, I would suggest paying attention to the feeling of the pull within yourself.
Practicing mindfulness can help you to move beyond your feeling that the phone is pulling you as if it reflects reality and to see the part of the experience that is within you.
I know how tempting it can be to treat that feeling as completely true and react to it instantly. But if we apply some mindfulness to that feeling when it arises, we may be able to short-circuit the automatic habit which leads us to pick up the phone and start using it as a reaction to the feeling.
Create Some Distance
This creation of distance between the feeling and our response to it can provide an opportunity to make a mindful choice as to whether or not and how to use the phone. Then, when you do reach for your phone, it’s the result of a mindful, conscious, and intentional choice — not an automatic reaction to the feeling that the phone is pulling you to it.
None of us is perfect at applying this, including me.
With that said, when I am successful at creating some distance from the feeling of being pulled by my phone, I have found that it has some great benefits.
It decreases my general feeling of anxiety. It’s a good feeling to know that I have a choice — just that feeling of freedom to choose is much better than the anxious, tight feeling that the phone is pulling me and I’m forced to react to it.
When the feeling of the phone pulling you surfaces, investigate it. Use it to cultivate some mindfulness in that moment. Make sure to also spend some time separately when you’re not experiencing that feeling in your practice. Then see if you can draw on your practice in your daily interactions with your phone.