Guess What? You Have Friends…Right in Front of You

Dear Kit,

Whenever I hang out with my friends, we always just end up on our phones…is there anyway to avoid this?

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I’m talking to someone and they are playing on their phone. I am guilty of doing this too, but I’ve been trying to be more conscious of keeping my devices out of my hands when I’m spending time with friends. When you’re in a social situation and the conversation dies or there’s not much to do, it’s really easy to pick up your smartphone and scroll through Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. The information you receive from your phone prevents you from having to fill empty space with words or actually think of something creative to do.

It seems as if social media has become our default.  Researchers have begun to study this phenomenon by testing the human attention span. According to a Microsoft Canada study in the spring of 2015 to test the human attention span. In a survey of Canadians ages 18-24, 77 percent reported that when nothing is occupying their attention, the first thing they do is reach for their phone. Only 10 percent of Canadians ages 65 and older reported doing this.

So what’s the point? As young people, we are extremely susceptible to technological distraction. So many things are competing for our attention that we can forget to pay attention to what’s really important—our friendships.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Make plans—Instead of just sitting around, where it’s likely for people to grab their phones, make plans to do something. Go to the movies, the cider mill, a haunted house, rent bikes at the KC or go canoeing. Though I don’t doubt it’s possible, it’s a lot harder to check your phone and ride a bike at the same time.

Your friends might still want to document what you’re doing on Snapchat or Twitter. Lori Deschene, founder of the self-help blog, Tiny Buddha, encourages social media users to experience now and share later. She says uploading photos “overlaps the experience of being in a moment”and “minimizes intimacy, since your entire audience joins your date or gathering in real time.” Remind your friends that it’s better to live in the moment than document it.

2. Make a wager—If your friends still end up on their phones, even after you’ve found something to do, try making a bet. Tell everyone to put their phones together and whoever touches theirs first has to do something of your choosing. This works really well if you’re out to eat. Put all the phones in the middle of the table, and the first one to crack has to pick up the check. Be as creative as you want.

3. Address the problem head on—Most people aren’t even aware of how rude it is to be on their phone while hanging out with people. It’s basically like saying, “Hey you aren’t that interesting to be around.” Part of fixing the problem is becoming aware of it, so talk to your friends. Let them know how you wish everyone didn’t end up on their phones when spending time together. I challenge you to be the one in your friend group who breaks the norm. Don’t be the person who just follows along with everyone else. You’re better than that.  

Photo by Alex Carey

About Kit Maher 13 Articles
I am a junior at Albion College studying journalism. I play defense for the Albion Women's Lacrosse team and write in my spare time. I love to workout and be outdoors. My favorite quote is the motto for LIFE Magazine: "To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life."

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