Could Curbing Smartphone Use Make Your Time at Home More Rewarding and Relaxing?

One of our goals at Color Theory is to help people enjoy their homes more. It's a simple idea but we think it's important. While we specialize in color and painting, we want our ideas to spread throughout the whole home.

In terms of our new culture's use of smartphones, we need to have a big "Stop and Smell the Roses" moment. Or in terms we can relate to "Stop and Look Up at the Paint Color"!

According to Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, & Byers's annual Internet Trends report, the typical smartphone user checks their device an average of 150 times per day. Peak usage is between 5pm and 8pm – the time when most Americans are at home trying to relax and spend time with friends and family.

I've talked to several dismayed parents who say the most common way they see their kid's face is tilted down with a glowing LCD screen in their face.  Or even more sad, a younger child who constantly has to beg for mom or dad's attention at the dinner table because they are on their phone!

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Now, I'll be the first to admit that I have a cellphone addiction. I love to read and my kindle app makes it so easy and convenient but when it starts to interfere with dinner or bedtime, I have to check myself.  I can always use an excuse to spend quality time with my sweet heart but the smart phone is a fierce competitor. When we're lying in bed trying to get to sleep, this is not the time to answer one last email or check Facebook.  The light from the screen is proven in one hospital study to alter sleepiness and alertness the following day and suppress melatonin levels. 

Researchers say that smartphones create compulsive behaviors because of the many triggers they issue (rings, buzzes, icons, notifications, etc.) and the wide array of stimuli they present to the senses (images, video, sound, vibration, and even the tactile interaction of clicking, swiping, and scrolling). 

Essentially, our smartphones train us to continually and constantly interact with them – even when we don’t want to or aren’t aware of how often we do.

Here are a few tips to help you use tech as an enhancer and less of a distractor:

Set Phone Free Times – There are certain times when family and friends get together, such as dinner or game night, that really shouldn’t be interrupted by texting, surfing, or emailing. Make sure your friends and family know that this time is reserved for human interaction only and make a “no outside world” rule. The issue with constant smart phone interaction is that it is isolating.  You may have the entire family together in one room but they aren't connected. 

Turn Off and Park Your Smartphone – It’s great if you have the willpower to resist constantly checking your mobile device, but sometimes the best way to “get away” is to turn off your phone and park it somewhere out of sight and out of mind. Park your smartphone in another room. At night, instead of charging next to your bed, put it on a dresser. If your phone is also your alarm, you can avoid over-sleeping if you have to get up to turn it off; then you get to check all of your precious notifications!

Disable Push Notifications – One reason we feel compelled to check our phones continuously is because they buzz, ring, and beep incessantly. Turning off push notifications means you only get emails and alerts when you access your programs intentionally. I try to make it a habit of opting out of notifications of everything but my most essential app collection. I also turn my phone to vibrate. Everything isn't urgent, I promise!

Find Communal Apps - I'll be the last to say that smartphones and tablets are a bad thing. It's how I do EVERYTHING. They do a really great job of connecting us remotely, but I do recognize that as a culture a lot of the apps in existence tend to isolate us from others locally. However, there are several apps that are designed to enhance our local interactions. Game apps such as, Head's Up and Party Doodle bring everyone in together to have a shared experience. My wife and I have a family calendar through iCal that we both update when we have appointments or events where we both need to be. This helps us schedule our week so we are more in-sync

In the future you'll see industry and service providers addressing this issue. We all want technology to be a part of our lives but figuring out a way for it to bring us together locally is on the horizon. We've figured out remote connectivity (i.e. connecting to people across long distances) the next step is to reconnect in your own living room.

If you use these simple methods to reduce your smartphone use, you’ll discover you can spend more time relaxing and enjoying the most valuable “social media” of all – old fashioned, meaningful conversation!

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