4 Ways to Put Your Phone Down (and Enjoy the People Around You)

“So the other day…” Bzz. “As I was saying…” Bzz.

You’ve been there: You’re doing your best to have a conversation, but you keep being interrupted by the vibrations of a cell phone. Here’s another familiar scenario: Trying to tell a story when the majority of people aren’t listening because they’re scrolling through photos of people they haven’t seen in years.

It’s happened to all of us, and it’s happening more and more. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Put your phone down, and I’ll put mine down, and maybe we’ll both be surprised by the world that awaits.

Why You Should Put Your Phone Down

A former Facebook executive recently came out to say that social media is a scourge that’s shredding the bonds of society. And it’s not hard to see why. A study conducted by British psychologists found that the average young person checks their phone 85 times per day. If you’re awake for 16 hours, that works out to be every 19 minutes. Which, honestly, seems a little low to me.

But when you put your phone down, you’re better equipped to observe the world. You’ll become more present in each moment, remembering events through your senses, rather than your phone lens. Wherever you are–a bar, a conference, on the bus–you’ll open yourself up to deeper conversations, new connections, and opportunity.

Who knows? When people see that your eyes are open to possibility–and not to Instagram–they might just follow suit.

4 Easy Ways to Finally Put Your Phone Down

Whether you’re at a networking event or a cozy dinner with friends, putting your phone down will be worth the effort. You’ll make better connections and memories, and allow yourself to stay mindful in your everyday life.

  1. Talk About It

If you feel shackled by your phone, you’re not alone. Many of us are struggling with similar issues; we’re just too embarrassed to reveal them. I, for one, have always been reluctant to admit how much I look at my phone – but lately, I’ve realized that’s the only way to get through it.

So discuss your feelings with your friends, family, and colleagues. It might sound melodramatic, but the first step to solving any problem is recognizing it’s a problem. Chances are, the people you know are facing the same challenges. Joining together will make them easier to combat – if your friend doesn’t pick up her phone in the middle of your chat, you probably won’t either.

  1. Hide Your Apps

In a widely circulated essay, an ex-Googler explained how today’s technology uses human psychology to “hijack” our minds. He compared tech companies to magicians, saying, “They give people the illusion of free choice while architecting the menu so that they win, no matter what you choose.”

In other words, by using concepts like intermittent variable rewards, FOMO (the fear of missing out), and social approval, they keep us hooked to our phones.

One way to fight back? Hide your apps. You don’t need to delete them; you just need to make them less visible. This makes it more difficult to mindlessly click and scroll. I’ve deleted all apps from my phone’s home screen, so I have to consciously search for them if I want access. (I’ve also deleted the Facebook app altogether.)

  1. Turn Off Notifications

In my mind, push notifications are pretty much evil. You can be in the middle of a meaningful conversation with someone when a device lights up and the moment is lost. A simple fix: Turn off push notifications on your phone and encourage your friends to do the same.

“Push notifications are ruining my life,” wrote David Pierce in WIRED. “Yours too, I bet… For all the good that phones do, their grip on our eyes, ears, and thoughts creates real and serious problems.” He turned off all the notifications on his phone, except for calls, texts, Slack, and email, and said he’s a “far happier person.” I’ve taken it one step further and turned off email too, and I don’t miss it one bit.

  1. Create Phone-Free Spaces

Last year, a fast food chain offered free ice cream cones to families who kept their cell phones in a box for the entire meal. It might make you sad we’ve gotten to that point, but the truth is that many of us rarely go entire meals without checking our phones.

Luckily, you don’t need a special box to implement this strategy yourself. With your friends and family, you can create restrictions that help you put your phone down. Maybe it’s no phones at the dinner table, no phones after 8 p.m., or no phones on dates. I’ve tried a few of these rules myself, and it’s amazing how simple boundaries can create such change.

Once you go on a date without phones, or get into bed knowing you won’t waste any time browsing, it might feel so good that you’ll start following the rules instinctually.

Putting down your phone may be difficult, but I promise it will be worth it. After all, in 30 years, are you going to look back and wish you’d spent more time staring at a screen– or enjoying the people around you?