Life beyond the screen

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What does our smartphone have to do with us buying less chewing gum?

Have you ever caught yourself zooming out of your phone and not remembering when and why you picked it up? Instead you learned that the second baby of your high-school friend was born (a girl, healthy, I learned another new name) and what happened in a remote village on the other side of the world. Well this has to do with why we buy less chewing gum. Gum is a typical product you pick up while waiting at the cashier. Do you know what we have been doing in the past few years while waiting instead of buying gum? We are lost in our phones. And chewing gum sales are plummeting.

Too bad for the producer but why should this bother you?

What you don’t notice doesn’t cause you joy

First of all let’s not be surprised. Our phone is an amusement park for adults. It contains the better part of all the written knowledge of the world, and all baby goat videos as well (if you liked cat videos then this will be a whole new level!), instant connection to most of your loved ones and a thousand other things that offers an alternative for a moment of boredom.

Beside that it takes your attention away from the present without you noticing. This includes all the sources of joy that the given moment could present to you. When you get sucked in by your phone you’ll less probably notice the sunshine on your face or the smell of your coffee or the warmth of your cup.

What’s more important is that it has an impact on the quality of the time we spend with our loved ones. This phenomenon is called phubbing. It basically means we dump people for our phones. When you look at your phone while dinner? Phubbing. When you check your notifications for just a moment while in a conversation? Phubbing. When you pick up the call you know for sure is not important while having a coffee with your colleague? Phubbing. I’m sure it will not come as a surprise that this behaviour drastically decreases the quality of closeness you feel while being together. We simply perceive as higher quality and more valuable the time we spend together without our phones.

Okay, so when you are sucked into your phone you don’t notice the small nice things around you but you also don’t notice sources of joy like your loved ones.

What can you do?

Catherine Price scientific journalist offer a solution you can learn quickly. When you pick up your phone ask yourself three questions. 

What was my goal with picking up my phone?
This will help you see your patterns that lie behind the reason why you are browsing so much. For me it was a huge revelation to realize I was only reaching for my phone often because I was bored for half a minute. But I’m sure there were times when I needed only 10 seconds of boredom to search for my phone in my pocket. Impulse hunting was my main motivation.

Why now?

Whatever your reason for taking your phone into your hands ask yourself wether it can wait until the end of dinner or until to timeslot you set apart for browsing. Yes, I try to allocate a separate timeslot for browsing. This is a sort of change of view. Since there are allocated timeslots when I can browse, any other occasions are cheating. This means the base scenario is not phone time, on the other hand, it’s not phone time.

What else could I be doing during this time?

This is my favourite. Not self-rebuke or strict rules, instead pleasure seeking and motivation. You want to learn Italian? You could be learning Italian right now instead of browsing. You want to finish a course? This instagramming-because-of-boredom-time would be a great opportunity.

A dear friend asked me how realistic it was to always ask yourself three questions when you pick up your phone. It’s not the three questions that count rather than making an automatic motion conscious. If you don’t remember the three question within two days but when you pick up your phone you consciously realize what you are doing and you are not opening the news site out of reflex then the exercise was successful.


Your phone is brilliant. Full of opportunities, information, old friends and new people, who one day can become your friends. Follow who inspires you on Instagram and believe me, their super posts will wait for you. Read that interesting article and learn from it, but not while you’re having dinner with your friends.

I’m not saying no to use it. I’m saying be mindful and not let the telephone use you.


Life beyond the screen