Turning off your mobile phone for even a short while can have a host of benefits — bonding with family, me-time to reflect, peaceful sleep…
At the end of his brilliant presentation on how mobile phones are hacked, I asked C. Chellappan, dean-CEG / professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Anna University, if he had a fool-proof method to secure my phone. “Switch it off,” he said. And, we know that’s not the only benefit of switching off.
Oh, for a few hours of mobile-free life! Honestly, how would you respond to these true “cellphone” situations? A temple priest talks into his mobile while performing arthi with one hand; 10 different ringtones blare at 4 a.m. on a train about to reach a station while the rest are sleeping; man on the beach negotiates business on the phone so loudly a baby begins to scream; car driver with cellphone attached to his ear misses you by a whisker. A teacher describes how a boy (brought up on PC / video games) struggles to control his eye movements to read. It is a long list…
Studies now warn us of self-inflicted threats from cellphone use. A Mayo Clinic (the U.S.) report says: If you’re concerned about the possible link between cellphones and cancer, consider limiting use of cellphones. A study published in Occupational And Environmental Medicine says 10 to 15 per cent of us experience some degree of tinnitus because we stay plugged into cellphones “no matter where we are”. “[There’s] a potential link between mobile phones and tinnitus as the cochlea and the auditory pathway directly absorb a considerable amount of energy emitted by a mobile.”
And there is the addiction — urge to check personal devices all the time, which human-computer interface researchers call “micro-interactions”. Own up — how many times in a day do you peek at email, social-media and apps? There is enough evidence to show that toggling between windows (check email, surf the Web) and apps can increase stress, interfere with short-term memory. Constant multi-tasking leaves you distracted, unable to focus. The next step easily is Attention Deficit Disorder.
Do you know what we have lost? Privacy and concentration. Attention span. If you are sending over a hundred messages a day, it means just one thing — you’ve lost the ability to be alone, to reflect. When I discussed it in a high school classroom, a student admitted that the thought of being unconnected unsettled her. Another asked: ‘why should I be alone?’
You should, say philosophers and psychologists. You need that down-time to realise you don’t have to be propped by ‘likes’, comments, re-tweets… You need it for self-introspection, to make thought-through decisions unhindered by social networks. As one writer put it, “the more we keep aloneness at bay, the less are we able to deal with it and the more terrifying it gets.” Being alone should not give you the heebie-jeebies. Is loneliness the disease of the Web generation?
It’s time we looked around us. Tom Chatfield, writing in BBC Future, has tips to “ditch the phone and regain your life”. Talk now, text / tweet / email later, he says. Since a cellphone facilitates all our work, we fail to put boundaries around leisure, adventure, eating, sleeping, vacations, intimacy. Is life only about digital delights? Take a phone-free day, he advises. Practise self-control to quell FOMO (fear of missing out). Change the “cellphone habit” by switching off. When travelling / sleeping get into “airplane mode” - no phones. Lock your digital devices for a while. Avoid being a search-it-all. Believe in and enjoy serendipity. Keep phones off the table. Stop “phubbing” (a word he coined) — snubbing others by paying attention to your mobile, specially at the dinner table. Look before you snap. A thousand smartphones being held aloft when an artiste is singing is not a pretty sight, nor polite. Taste before you upload: pause, think before you hit “send”. Kiss your phone goodnight, sleep well. As author Tim Harford puts it, “Smartphones are habit-forming, so think about the habits you want to form.”
Turn off automatic email notifications
* Don’t turn switching devices back on into uncontrollable yearning
* Practise thought-control exercises such as concentrating on a simple imagined object for a few minutes
* Maintain enough inner strength and freedom to avoid dependence
* Leave phone behind while you walk