Before I was a copywriter, I worked as an office manager for a production company. When we would hire new people, I often got sucked into the role of “interviewer” because of how unassuming and/or intimidating I was or wasn’t. I really looked forward to it, not because it put me in a position of power, but because I could pretend to make notes on the applicant’s resume while really all I was doing was tally-marking every time they used the word, “like.” Do you realize how much more attractive, intelligent, and cool you would appear to be if you could eliminate this word from your vocabulary? Like, seriously. Now I’m going to talk about what you look like when you hold your iPhone.
This January, I predicted that 2015 would be the year that mobile tech would give back, and work with our mobile devices to keep us off of them rather than glued to them. Smartphone culture has us hunched, clawing, and staring into our screens while we scroll, swipe, and tap endlessly to our imminent doom, which includes (but is not limited to) back problems, tendonitis, impaired vision and (probably, I mean why not?) radiation poisoning.
And it is so not cute. Thank goodness we’re catching onto it before it gets out of hand, when texting replaces actual conversations and we forget how to read things longer than 144 characters. I mean, it had to get worse before it started getting better, right? Consider the drink industry: Ten years ago, we couldn’t get enough all-in-one alcoholic/energy drink hybrids, versus now when we are seeing more attention to detail, authenticity, and nostalgia with craft breweries and mixology, hand-drawn packaging and throwback labels.
People are paying attention to the process, to tradition, and to community. I think the same thing could be said about how we connect with each other (and not just our booze): Instant gratification is not the same as in-person gratification. And even if all roads did lead to the same place, we are now more invested in the origin and journey versus the destination.
We have the gadgets like Apple Watch and Galaxy Edge, undoubtedly designed to keep us from interrupting romantic dinners and campfire sessions by checking our phones. Is it working? I don’t know. The question I’m asking is, “Does it matter?” Personally, I don’t think another gadget is going to keep us from being attached to our gadgets. I know it won’t. If we truly need to physically attach another device to our body to keep from checking our phones, I think we have a bigger problem here.
For me, it’s a space filler. It’s the awkward silence remedy during a long dinner, or when I’m waiting in line. It’s the physical manifestation of the dreaded word, “like.” Are you like me and you pull out the phone to keep from making eye-contact with other people waiting at the crosswalk? Or maybe you just don’t know what to do with your hands? I have an answer for you: ANYTHING ELSE. Play with your hair, put them in your pockets, wave at a stranger, clap them very loud, I don’t care.
When you’re at dinner with all your friends, silently acknowledge that this is a moment that will never be repeated in this lifetime: You will never be in this place at this time with these people ever again. Understand how precious that makes this time, how important these people are, even if you don’t really know them that well. You could very well walk out of here and be hit by a bus driver who was texting behind the wheel, or trampled by a stampede of a thousand rabid goats. Your only responsibility today is to be here now. So be “that guy” (that amazing guy that got the job because he didn’t say “like” a single time during his initial interview) and put your phone face down at the head of the table, and encourage your friends to do the same. Stack them up like a Jenga tower or a heap of garbage, and announce that the first person to reach for their phone has to pay the bill. Congratulations. You instantly got way sexier, and people will admire you.
If this all sounds like it could be too much too soon, start small and get a distraction eliminator app like Forest, which makes you feel like a total failure and tree-killer for checking your phone. In reward, you get to grow a seedling and cultivate your own digital forest.
Other things you can do:
Hire a friend or enemy to hold you accountable for whenever you let the L-word slip.
Have a “Like” jar on your desk at work and throw in a quarter every time you fail.
Holy moly, did I just get a new app idea?
This could be you. Before celebrities were clutching iPhones, their paparazzi photos captured them as they were: glorious and free. The world is an exciting, beautiful, and interactive place. Don’t be that idiot on their phone the whole time.