Is Your Cell Phone Sabotaging Your Social Life?


Hold up. I’m updating my status on Facebook. 

“Are you even listening to me?” my friend asked over the dinner table.

Oops, I’d done it again. My phone and I are obsessed with each other. Well, I am obsessed with it and it keeps calling me. Literally buzzing, beeping and performing vibrating shimmies across the table just enough to catch my eye and distract me.

I know it’s out of hand now. So out of hand, it’s always in my hand. It’s crafty like that. I should have been listening to my friend’s story about her reckless shopping spree, but I zoned out, tripped over and accidentally fell into a text.

‘Sorry, it’s work,’ I replied, flicking my phone over on the table. Truth is, it wasn’t super urgent work and I know its bona fide rude not to pay attention to the person sitting opposite me who I’m supposed to be catching up with. But I also know I’m not alone.

Even looking around the restaurant I saw two couples at different tables tapping away on their cells rather than talking to each other. The only thing that’s racy about those dates is the phone bill.

I used to feel sorry for couples who sat in silence in restaurants presuming they’d run out of conversation. Is falling into our phones even worse? Why are we becoming increasingly drawn to technology rather than other human beings?

“Technology is often our permanent companion, so we see it as an extension of ourselves,”University of Melbourne psychologist, Dr Erica Frydenberg says. Can it be addictive?

“Absolutely. ‘Love’ or emotional satisfaction is addictive, we go back for more and more. We are also curious – who wants to communicate with me? Is something good going to come in the next communication? This is ‘optimism’. Just like people are addicted to gambling in one form or another, it is the hope of scoring a win.”

Can we eat anything anymore without documenting it?

There is definitely a FOMO in my cell phone obsession. We’ve made ourselves permanently available; people can now get in touch with us whenever they want, wherever we may be. Every time our phone beeps we want to instantly know who it is, what they want, what news they bring, what offer they’re making. If the magic red button comes up on our social media apps there is a ‘need to know’ surge of emotion. We want to know who’s getting in touch right now.

Who are we kidding? What are the chances that it’s a huge, life-changing job offer or our celebrity crush following us? The odds on that are as slim as winning the lottery – but it’s as addictive as buying a ticket just in case.

So, if we don’t want to curse at our phones and flush them down the toilet in disgust, what can we do to avoid frustrating all of our friends or leaving us with only data to date?

“It’s important to be guided by rules such as no cell phones in meetings,” Dr Frydenberg says.

“A simple first course in mindfulness will help, learning to focus on the here and now, appreciate what is happening in the moment. We should slow down to smell the roses and enjoy what is in front of us.”

In my case, delicious calamari and fries was right in front of me. And of course, my friend.

What if we’re easily distracted? “Make some firm binding resolutions,” she continues.

“Turn your cell off like you have to in a theatre or at the movies. If a message or call is important explain this to the person you are with. If you must take a call, leave the room if you’re eating in a café or restaurant. Be aware of the impact it has on the person you’re with. If you care about them, realise their time is also precious and limit your absence from them.”

It’s sound advice, leading to the sound of human conversation. When the phone is on the other hand, I know I’m sick of having conversations with people while they text.

Time to be mindful. Who wants to be left dining solo with only a cell phone for company? Although…technically, there’s always Siri…


 Images via and Shutterstock