The average smartphone user spends 2.5 hours a day surfing or talking on their device – and those numbers are not achieved by just looking for the best organic food market to buy mushrooms for your risotto. And, as a doctor and as someone with common sense, if I see another person fall down on the street because they were texting and didn’t see the curb, I am going to lose it!
Studies have shown that the amount of time spouses spend talking to their partners, and parents spend talking to their kids has plummeted in the last decade due to Internet and cell phone use. This fact, coupled with the knowledge that we really have no consistent data to validate whether extreme cell phone use is actually safe or not, should make us all feel very uncomfortable.
Yes, we have come a long way as far as technology goes, and there are some advantages to cell phone use, of course. Smartphones help us stay connected to loved ones, provide us the convenience of having information immediately at our fingertips, and increase our safety. But, we are also losing a lot of interpersonal communication skills and missing out on healthy things like conversation and interaction with other human beings.
Here are a few practical tips you can use to decrease your exposure to the smartphone epidemic:
1. Make it a rule: No smartphone use for you or anyone in your family when you are at dinner. Turn them off and ceremoniously put them in the middle of the table as a symbol of your solidarity. Studies show that when you interact with your kids and family members during a meal, it decreases stress, and empowers and deepens your relationships.
2. Try to write at least two letters or cards to your friends or family members every month to let them know that they are special enough for you to take the time to actually write them a letter. There is something still very magical about putting that pen to paper that makes you feel accomplished when you are done.
3. Finally, when you use a smartphone, make sure that you try to always use an earpiece so that the actual device is not directly adjacent to your head or ear. Until we get data from definitive long-term studies on cancer risk, it’s always good to be more safe than sorry – so keep those waves away from your brain.
I know that smartphones are here to stay, but we must remember that what makes us uniquely human is our ability to interact with others of our species in very intimate way. And that’s a lot more powerful than 3g or 4g.