Meaningful connection takes work — it always has, it’s just that now our devices make false promises about making it easier. Here are four values to help you pursue more mindful use of your phone:
Be present. Connect with the people and opportunities already around you.
Hang out with your friends. When you do, put your phone away (no really, put it away) — it doesn’t feel good to be someone’s second pick for entertainment or interaction. Watch and enjoy a sunset without covering the event on social media. Acknowledge and make small talk with the person in line behind you at the store. Establish no-phone zones, for example at the dinner table or in the car, so you’re available for conversation — even having a phone in the same room influences the intimacy of a conversation, according to Psychology Today.
Be balanced. Take charge of your phone addiction.
Practice “Screenless Sundays” or put your phone away for the evening. Don’t sleep with your phone in your room. Turn off notifications and use the “do not disturb” feature on your phone — interruptions hinder productivity and social connection, and your time is valuable. Remember that you’re under no social obligation to answer calls or texts the moment you get them. Pay attention to how you feel after texting certain friends, interacting on social media, playing games or using certain apps — if it doesn’t make you feel good, show yourself some love and don’t do it.
Be intentional. Use your phone as a tool to accomplish something that matters to you.
Use a time management app that allows you to set time limits on the apps that you use just to kill time. Find apps, podcasts and other tools that help you pursue your goals and interests. Take up a real hobby or have alternative ideas for things to do when you’re bored or tired — phones don’t actually solve those problems. Exercise your creativity instead of relying on your phone for entertainment. Don’t use your phone as a distraction to avoid unpleasant tasks or people; phones don’t make them go away.
Be courageous. Learn to engage in conversation, even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable.
Use text messages primarily for working out details or unimportant exchanges. Make time for real conversations — text conversations lack the sense of connectedness that real conversations can provide. Learn to think on your feet and how to navigate awkward conversations — no one gets there naturally, and hiding behind a phone doesn’t help you improve. Learn to make eye contact and read non-verbal cues. Say hard things in person — bad news, break-ups and conflicts shouldn’t take place over text, unless you’re hoping the screenshot will end up as a meme that makes you look bad.