Next time you’re at a restaurant or cafe, take a peek around and count how many people are on their cell phones. It’s a lot, isn’t it? Even more shocking is the number of people who sit with others and browse social media — instead of talking like they did in the ’90s.
You may have noticed this digital addiction that is so prevalent in America today, and we all may be guilty of contributing to this growing epidemic. Do you have phones off while at the table? If you have family, browsing when eating could be terrible for the relationships and bonds that derive from good ol’ fashioned conversation around the dinner table.
The dings and vibrating smartphone updates may be ruining your communication with family and friends, according to a study published in Environment and Behavior (2014). The research utilized Hierarchical Linear Modeling and found that “conversations in the absence of mobile communication technologies were rated as significantly superior compared with those in the presence of a mobile device, above and beyond the effects of age, gender, ethnicity, and mood.”
Smartphones are indeed smart! They know exactly what you need, whether it’s a constant barrage of news streaming or the latest and greatest social media update. They have a variety of attention-grabbing bells and whistles to distract you from an important project or from those brief moments you get to spend quality time with your loved ones. People may be falling into the habit of checking in on what’s new with their kids on Facebook, instead of simply asking them.
The digital world is having an increased effect on your immediate community, as well. The era of purchasing everything you need online, from shoes to cars, is upon us. The convenience of it all is quite wonderful; however, some of your neighborhood staples may begin disappearing.
“Brick-and-mortar” retailers have been fighting the good fight for years, but they are losing the battle every day. A study published in the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal (2008) examined the online shopping habits of 181 students. They found that three-quarters of participants shopped online, and nearly 95 percent “shopped at non-local retailers.”
I remember the wonders of the ’90s, with phones plugged into walls and meeting a friend for coffee and engaging in actual conversation.
My hometown in Oregon had an assortment of local coffee shops we would meet at and listen to our friends play live music. Some even became small business owners themselves. However, Starbucks cast its “green mermaid” shadow upon our sleepy town and locally owned businesses went bankrupt, closing the doors and calling it quits. Not long after, a large supermarket joined in and paved over an old park to get roadside access.
The holiday season is like steroids for digital distractions, but we shouldn’t let our mobile devices distract us from what’s important. Quality family time is a vital part of the holidays, and keeping your phone off may be worthwhile. Another great way to return to the ’90s this Christmas is to give your homegrown businesses a bit of business. You may even find a few unique gifts for friends and family that will stand out among the commercial yuletide cheer this year.
What commitment will you make to keep digital distractions out of your holiday season?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flare for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.