I am often called on to teach or train people on non-verbal communication. One of my favorite parts of those sessions is when we talk about the physical “things” that we purposely put in front of ourselves. When public speaking, people like to stand behind a podium or table or their notes, as if they were the magic feather. At networking events where people are seated and then stand to introduce themselves, they’ll frequently circle ‘round the back of their chair and hold on to it for dear life. These actions tell the audience, that these things are more important than you. When you stand behind a chair, you’ve placed a wall between you and the audience. It might make you feel less vulnerable but it looks like you’re unconfident or afraid of actually connecting with us.
And then there are our phones. That small, yet satisfying device that fits in the palm of our hands and has the power to create a chasm of space between us. The act of placing our phone on a table or desk in front of us is a non-verbal conversation that goes something like this, “Sure, I’m talking to you and I’m probably going to pay attention to some of what you’re saying, until something better posts/pops/dings or rings.” It’s frankly, a shitty way to engage with someone.
We’ve entered a codependent relationship with metal, silicon & plastic.
We’ve created our own personal “Mean Girl.”
She wants all the attention. All. Of. It. Sure you might look at live people, you might even talk to live people, but woe to you if you miss an opportunity to “like” your friend’s Insta post about her redonkulous new shoes. Or a business email. Or a tagged LinkedIn post. Or your cousin’s photo of her son’s first day of 4th grade. We’re never offline and it’s exhausting!
Your phone needs to constantly be reassured that it’s the most important thing in your life. After all, you’ve put your life in your phone. It wakes you up, keeps your calendar, entertains, informs and educates you. You know your place in the world because of your phone. It’s your “friend,” your lifeline - it just doesn’t make you coffee. Mean Girls never do, although, there are plenty of apps for that, soooo…
And how much time during the day do you spend charging your phone, thinking about charging your phone, or worrying that you don’t have enough charge to get you through until the next outlet? Mean Girls are demanding. They want what they want, when they want it.
We haven’t even talked about status. You know that oxytocin boost you get from walking around with a brand new, latest model of whatever phone you have a relationship with. It’s exciting and costly and sure, it might be a bit shallow but it’s so pretty and you just want to show it off.
You spend huge amounts of time with your phone. Maybe it isn’t your friend, but your “frenemy.” You know you need some time apart, that the relationship isn’t entirely healthy. You’ve read the studies. You watched the Simon Sinek video. And yet, the vaguely blue light is a siren call. It’s lovely and irresistible, and validating.
Just please, stop trying to make “fetch” happen
LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her company provides a wealth of soft skills training events that utilize theatre strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans. To find out more about putting down your phone, feel free to give us a call at 843-771-0753. (Yes, we know that seems oxymoronic).