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Tag: smartphone

Group Text Messaging: Productive or Annoying?


Trying to make plans with a group of people can be challenging. Obviously, everyone has their own schedule and it can be hard to coordinate a mutually convenient time for all of you to meet up.

Many of us turn to group text messaging as a quicker alternative to group email. However, receiving text messages in a particular thread or conversation with one or a group of people can quite simply be annoying — especially if you keep getting notifications within that thread!

Silence Your Notifications

The good news: It’s possible to silence or turn off notifications within that thread and still receive notifications for all of your other text messages.

On an iOS platform, for example, you can go into your messages app, slide the group message (or any text message) to the left, and hit “hide alerts.” If people send more messages in that thread, you won’t get notified and your phone won’t make a sound or pop up a little summary of the message. You will still receive other messages, however.

To be clear, this doesn’t block the thread.

Anytime you go into the messages app, they will all be there. This is just meant to stop notifications so you’re not bothered by them. I find this very helpful for group threads in particular — especially when they involve three or more people.

Exercise Some Control

Here’s a scenario from my personal experience: When I’m trying to schedule dinner with five people and messages are being sent back and forth about unrelated topics, I will often hide alerts or silence notifications from that thread once the dinner has been scheduled. This way, my phone doesn’t beep every time someone posts an emoji or says one word.

To catch up on all these messages, I set time aside once a day so I can scroll through the ones I’ve missed without interruptions or distractions from my phone.

You can think of this like a targeted version of Do Not Disturb — you can turn it back on when you don’t mind getting these notifications and are ready to engage.

This is the kind of feature that gives you significant power over when, how, and by whom you are interrupted. It also helps you exercise some conscious control over who gets to grab your attention and why.

Responding, Not Reacting to Your Smartphone


Have you ever watched a tennis sequence in which a player serves and the receiver runs in reaction to the serve and then hits the ball back off balance? Throughout the exchange, the server stands firm and it seems like they’re dictating where and when the receiver moves. 

Do you ever feel like that with your smartphone? Are you the receiver and is your smartphone the server?

You’re woken up every day by an alarm on your phone, and from that moment on, you may feel like you’re frantically reacting to it. We’ve all been there and know the feeling.

You can see it in many if not all competitive sports: One side appears to be in control of the flow and is doing what it wants while the other side is just barely keeping up and trying to react. It’s prevalent in many human interactions as well. I see it frequently in negotiations, with one party taking the lead and making the first strong offer while the other party just reacts.

When you’re on the receiving end and feel a lack of control, it’s obviously not enjoyable. It can almost feel like you’re a puppet for the other party, and even if you’re ultimately deciding how you’re reacting to them, you’re still reacting in some way.

In terms of mindfulness, it’s certainly a situation in which you are not acting based on your own intention or self-direction.

Apply Some Mindfulness

There is hope, though. We don’t have to be this way — with our smartphone, in sports, or in negotiations. In all of these scenarios, there are strategies that have been developed for learning how not to react or how to break out of that cycle.

The first suggestion is a very general and personal one. If you feel like you’re often out of control, reacting to your smartphone, and your habits are mindless, apply some mindfulness. You may actually want to sit down and meditate or think about your life in general. Ask yourself if there are particular situations in which you regularly feel grounded, in control, able to set your intention and consistently act according to it, and not reactive to technology or people.

We are all complicated beings. Sometimes, we can be very grounded, self-directed, and have the initiative in one context (ex. at work) but not in another (ex. with our family). It’s very common for people to not be reactive with close family members.

Think carefully about your life and I bet that you will find at least one context in which you do have skill, wisdom, and the ability to not be reactive. This is not something you’re going to figure out in one sitting, but asking yourself, “What is it about me in that context that has enabled me to be non-reactive?” would be beneficial.

Transfer Your Skills

The goal is to learn about yourself in one context and then try to see the parallels in another. In this case, can you try to apply those same kinds of habits or skills in connection with your use of technology?

I’ll leave you with two final tips:

1. You may find it easier to transfer over skills to the smartphone context from one in which you had to consciously practice and learn how to be grounded, focused, and not reactive.  If you are naturally a good negotiator but find it hard to negotiate with your family, it may be harder for you to transfer that natural talent because you may not be conscious of how or why you are effective. It might take more effort to understand the how and why.

2. Start practicing whatever you think may be useful from the one context in which you’ve been successful, happy, and self-directed. Then you can develop some ideas for how you can apply that practice to your smartphone use. See if it works. Don’t expect it to work immediately or give up too quickly. Practice every day or throughout the day.

By following these pointers, you can identify and leverage the skills needed to wrestle control back from your phone.

How to Manage the Pull of Your Smartphone

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 at you, 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 thing that’s doing something to us. It’s calling to us or trying to attract our attention.

From my experience of working for many years in technology and mindfulness, it seems that this feeling about our smartphones and other devices is very common. It feels as though these devices are acting on us. I’m calling this a feeling rather than a fact. It is something that we feel, and as real as it may feel to us, it is a feeling. And it’s a perfect type of feeling to apply some mindfulness to.

What I’ve found from my own personal experience and working with other people is that not applying mindfulness to that feeling can contribute to many of the problems and pains we experience in relation to our technology.

Think about the situation. Your phone is 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. It is an intention 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 the phone is not physically doing anything. It’s just sitting there. If you feel as though the phone is pulling you, I would strongly suggest that the pull is coming from somewhere within you rather than from the phone. Practicing mindfulness can help you to stop perceiving your feeling that the phone is pulling you as if it reflected reality.

What is true is that you feel like the phone is pulling at you. This is an exercise in separating the reality of the feeling from whether the meaning of the feeling accurately reflects reality. By detaching yourself from the feeling, you can separate the reality of the feeling from the reality of the meaning of the feeling.

I know how alluring or tempting that feeling can be in the moment. It can feel completely real. And it’s so natural and mindless that you can easily react to it.

If we apply some mindfulness when it arises, however, we may be able to short-circuit that automatic habit which leads us to pick up the phone and start using it as a reaction to the feeling that the phone is pulling us.

That craving is coming from within us. If we apply mindfulness, we can actually create an opportunity to make a mindful choice as to whether or not to use the phone. Practice mindfulness so that when you do reach for the phone, it’s the result of a mindful, conscious and intentional choice — not a reaction to the feeling that the phone is pulling you to it.

None of us is perfect at applying this.

With that said, I can pause some of the time and make a conscious choice, and whenever I do that, it has great side effects. 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 that I have no freedom not to react to the pull.

When it surfaces, investigate the feeling that the phone is making you do something or acting on you. Use that to cultivate some mindfulness in that moment. 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.