Tips for the tech-obsessed to avoid social faux pas this holiday season
Adam Birney / Android Authority
The holidays are upon us, and no matter what traditions we celebrate, they all tend to involve gatherings with friends and family. It is a time to reconnect with relatives, eat delicious food and engage in communal conversation. But one thing in particular has the ability to prevent us from doing so, and that is in my pocket and yours.
Smartphones give us an easy and efficient way to communicate with the world. But they can become an obstacle when they are talking to others in the same room or sitting at the same table. A flashy new phone can be especially hard to ignore if it’s been waiting for you under the Christmas tree and you’ve just unwrapped it. But the holidays only come once a year, and that phone will still be waiting for you long after all the baking is gone.
See also: On Good Authority: Our Team’s Tips for Kicking a Phone Addiction
Now, I’m not saying it’s not okay to use your phone during a social gathering. For example, there is nothing wrong with using your smartphone to take a photo of everyone as a keepsake. But our devices shouldn’t distract us from the time we spend with loved ones.
With that in mind, here are some tips to break the bad habits of tech obsession so you can focus on the moment and the people you share it with. If nothing else, being mindful of how you use your phone can save you from being pestered by your mother. Not to mention you’ll be more alert when you see someone trying to grab the last bite of your favorite food before you get seconds.
Set these alerts
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
More than ever, constant interruptions and precisely targeted distractions from phones can prevent us from being present with each other. It may sound surprising, but approximately 89% of cell phone users admit to using their phones during their last social gathering. If that number doesn’t scream tech obsessed, I don’t know what does. In our smaller poll, 41% of respondents said they only use their phones when no one is talking to them (which may not be as rude, but still not ideal).
As soon as you feel a buzz or hear the alert bell ring, it’s normal to instinctively pull out the phone.
We understand that. When you’re just sitting there, and the conversation dies down, or maybe you’re not interested, it’s tempting to pull out your phone. As soon as you feel a buzz or hear the warning bell ring, it may even happen instinctively. These interruptions are designed to be exciting, after all, and it is when we are idle, when there is “nothing to do,” that we feel our phones calling us to supplement our boredom.
But the truth is that there is always “something to do” around the holidays. There are people to talk to and stories to listen to and tell.
If you’re not expecting any important news, why not turn on Do Not Disturb mode to stop all incoming distractions? You can set a timer for just one hour during dinner to start. If you’re waiting for some news, consider blocking calls or specific apps from vying for your attention. Do Not Disturb lets you set your own schedule for when and how your phone can bother you.
Turning on Do Not Disturb mode and making a conscious effort to stay in the conversation are good places to start.
Even without the cue of an alert, we can feel the urge to take out our phones. Instead, try redirecting that urge into a question. If you can’t think of anything to say, maybe grab another mouthful of turkey and compliment whoever cooked it on how good it tastes. With practice, we can become aware of our habits and decide what deserves our attention.
Limit screen time
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
Notifications aren’t the only distraction. Scrolling through apps like Twitter or Instagram during social gatherings is perhaps even more bad manners. In fact, the presence of a phone during a conversation has been shown to disrupt the connection between people. In particular, emotional attachment is reduced when the phones are visible, reducing feelings of empathy, trust and a sense of closeness.
It’s easy to get sucked into the social feedback loop of likes and online drama. But limiting screen time in the first place is easier than trying to disconnect once you’ve opened the app. We recommend using tools such as digital wellness or focus mode to be mindful. Think of them as putting up some useful digital handrails to keep the technical obsession to a minimum.
Digital Wellbeing can put some healthy railings in place to limit the scrolling.
Look at the graphs of how long you tend to spend on each app. If the amount alarms you, set daily timers for how long you can use them. When you reach the time limit, it might even be a good idea to give the unlock code to someone else. That way, you won’t be tempted to bypass it.
What should you do if someone catches you using the phone? Hopefully you see something interesting that is worth sharing with others and stimulating conversation. If not, maybe you deserve that lump of coal. The key point here is not to get caught up in a bottomless news feed or a game that isolates you from the festivities.
Now I have bad news here. Even if you limit screen time, turn off your phone and put it face down on the table, it can still drain your attention. Yes, you read that right. The mere presence of a smartphone within reach stimulates working memory. This brings us to our final tip; remove the phone completely.
Out of sight, out of mind
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
If you want to escape the brain drain and get on the gravy train, leave your phone in another room. Tie your phone to the top of the tree, hide it in a stocking or set up some nutcracker soldiers to guard it if you have to. Whatever it takes, you will notice a positive difference from digital fasting.
If you’re tech-obsessed, it’s even more beneficial to do so. Ironically, participants in a study with phone addiction had the greatest increases in memory and fluid intelligence when their phones were in another room. In other words, if you’re an avid phone user, good news! You will get an extra focus on taking a break.
If you are an avid phone user, you will have an extra focus on taking a physical break from it.
This holiday season, let’s try to put away the phone. As we’ve seen, having our phones out disrupts our focus and connection with those around us. So remember, turn off notifications, limit screen time and leave your phone in another room when you can.
If not for the whole day, try keeping your phone out of reach for an hour. We guarantee you will thank yourself and be more present for the party, the songs and the traditions with the people you share them with. Such a feat can only amount to a Christmas miracle.