As we come to the end of 2018, Bernie Petrie asks us to consider the relationship we have with our phones – do we want to continue with what looks like co-dependence or are we ready and willing to move into a more conscious relationship?

was chatting with my teenage son last night about smart phones – as we have called a moratorium on phones in the bedroom overnight. Not just for him, but for all of us – justifying it as an alarm clock no longer makes honest sense. It struck me that every aspect of our lives now seems to involve phones and this dependency has happened in less than a decade. When you consider how long humans have been on earth, you realise how much of an impact this technology has had, in effectively a blink of an eye. 

Becoming more conscious of doing things without your phone, such as spending time in nature, watching a movie, having a family meal or in cafés with friends really does make a difference to our sense of well-being and to our human relationships. I have long known that screens have a powerful pull over me. I cannot have a conversation with someone whilst a screen is on in the background, it doesn’t matter what’s on.  And now with mobile devices I have to put them away otherwise I am totally pulled in, and it feels really good to experience people, places and food without the input of a device.

A recent update to my smart phone means my phone now tracks all my social media activity; facetime Instagram What’s App and Messenger, and it’s been really illuminating – when I think I’ve just spent a minute or so checking something – it’s actually more like eight minutes! I got rid of notifications ages ago, because they were so distracting but this added feature has made me realise I am still checking social media more than I’d like to admit and awareness is important to enable change.

I don’t want to imply that I think smart phones should go. But honestly did we really know what we were letting into our lives? Did we foresee a world where people are constantly staring at a small screen, and not actually chatting to each other in the flesh?

We are approaching a period of time in our culture – the festive season – a time of love and connection. We can acknowledge that technology enables us to connect with those far away. Yet we must also be aware of when to switch it off, so as not to pull us away from those who are in the room with us or stop us from getting out and meeting up with people and to have an actual hug not a virtual one. One of the most precious things in life are memories of time spent with our children, family members and dear friends. And making sure we are all present and not on our phones at these gatherings will have long-term benefits for all. 

As I write this column it’s almost November 11th, so it seems apt to finish with this – Lest we forget those that came before us giving us the gift of life. We need to remember that being fully present with those that we love and all humans we interact with, is the best gift we can ever give.

With love until the next time. 

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