Did you know that by 2014, the number of mobile phones in usage will exceed the world’s population? Considering phone service doesn’t even exist in some countries, this means many of us will grow to depend on a second or even third mobile device.

How will this change the way we interact? And how will our body language, social cues and relationships be affected?

stressThere are growing reports that a perception of emotional distance is increasing despite constant ‘social’ activity. Case in point. Have you ever had a friend or acquaintance read and respond to a text message in the middle of a conversation? I read a great article on this topic recently called ‘Take your phone off the table’ by Eric Portelance.

“I’ll have dinner with a friend and they slap their iPhone on the table from the moment we meet. They are constantly distracted by the phone lighting up, beeping and buzzing to let them know someone validated their existence..”.

Digital culture commentator Tom Chatfield refers to ‘a world in which most of our waking hours are spent consuming or interacting with media’, and he describes the ramifications eloquently in his article ‘The Attention Economy’.

“We watch a 30-second ad in exchange for a video; we solicit a friend’s endorsement; we freely pour sentence after sentence, hour after hour, into status updates and stock responses. None of this depletes our bank balances,” writes Tom.

“Yet its cumulative cost affects many of those things we hope to put at the heart of a happy life: rich relationships, rewarding leisure, meaningful work, peace of mind.”

So what should we do about it? Charlie Warzel of Buzzfeed puts forward a very strong case for deleting all your apps. A software glitch forced him to wipe his own phone and he was surprised to find pleasure in the experience.

“.. before I restored my phone I glanced down at my clean default home screen. No Twitter. No email. No contacts. So I delayed. A few hours passed without a single push notification or alert. It was, for lack of a better word, kind of tranquil.”

Studies indicate that checking email, Facebook, and Twitter accounts too regularly can damage our ability to concentrate.

There’s a growing trend amongst companies to introduce policies in which laptops and mobile devices are banned from meetings to prevent constant checking of emails and social media. While a quick log-on may seem harmless, others in the room perceive it as rude. And the break in concentration can be enough to lose attention for the rest of the meeting.

There’s no hard and fast answer to prevent the social disconnect felt by many people as a result of their virtual over connect. But as with everything, moderation is the key.

Tech devices are wonderful – I’ll be the first to say it. We have made some of the best technological advances since the turn of the century. But have caution with their ability to take over your time and life.

Take your phone off the table and every so often, delete your apps.

Dan Fairbairn

Dan is passionate about technology as an enabler, with years of experience training, evaluating and implementing technology into small businesses. Outside of work he loves live music, craft beer and over-analysing sport...!

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