I hadn't heard of technoference until recently, but chances are you've either experienced it or caused somebody else to experience it.
You can probably guess what it means, but it's defined as "everyday intrusions or interruptions in couple interactions or time spent together that occur due to technology". The problem is, it's not confined to couples, but also occurs in friendships and - more disturbingly - parent-child relationships, and may even be leading to behavioral problems in children.
Having just written an article on the subject, I decided to drastically reduce the amount of time I spent on my smartphone.
A few years ago I offered to help someone with a design project, and they only wanted to be contacted via Facebook, even though I had their phone number and email address. I explained that I was trying to use Facebook less, but they were adamant it was Facebook or nothing. As I was the one offering my help for free, it was nothing.
Shortly after, I was out with someone I hadn't seen for a while, and he spent the majority of the time on his phone telling people what he was doing on Facebook. Having watched this guy sit there and talk at me about what people I didn't know were doing halfway around the world while he ignored the person in front of him, I decided to delete my Facebook account. Basically, I was tired of connecting with people online more than I was connecting in real life.
Facebook's only part of the problem, though.
Since getting a smartphone, I've found myself:
Needing instant answers for whatever pops into my head.
Reaching for my phone during momentary lulls in conversations.
Instinctively getting my phone out when on the train, eating out, drinking tea, and many other situations.
And, the worst, using my phone when I'm with my kids.
There are probably other times when I've used the phone when I shouldn't, but these are the ones that stand out. So recently I decided to change.
Cutting down on smartphone use
Here are five things that have helped me reduce my smartphone use to the absolute minimum:
1) I wear a watch
This might sound a bit far-fetched, but one of the reasons I often looked at my phone was to check the time.
Once I had the phone in my hand, I found myself absent-mindedly looking at other things and, before I knew it, I'd wasted a load of time looking at things for no other reason than I was able to.
Having a watch (not a smartwatch - a regular, time and date only, analogue one) removes that initial temptation and allows me to leave my phone in my bag.
2) I carry a book everywhere
If I feel like I want to read something while eating or drinking, or while on the train (alone), I carry a book to read instead of reaching for my phone.
Not only is it a lot more enjoyable, it's also far less tempting to skip around, so you actually retain more and learn more.
3) I turn it off at night
I used to look at my phone before going to bed, which has been shown to affect sleep patterns and health due to blue light emissions.
It's too soon to start proselytizing on the joys of deep sleep enjoyed because of no blue light, but I can say that I've been deeply enjoying reading with, and talking with, my kids before bed.
And I don't intend on giving that up.
4) I consciously avoid it
This is the biggest for me.
Instead of trying to distract myself, I consciously avoid reaching for my phone. I don't like how, as mentioned above, I've become so impatient that I need instant answers and gratification. I never used to be this way (I suspect most of us weren't this way) and I used to enjoy letting my mind wander and capturing my thoughts on paper.
Which brings me to...
5) I carry a pen and notebook
I used to do this as a matter of course to jot down ideas, but once I got a smartphone I stopped doing it.
I've rediscovered the joy of writing things down, and how ideas seem to formulate and come together much more easily (for me, anyway) when I'm physically recording them and playing with them on paper.
So there you go - some of the things I'm doing to reduce my smartphone use. I plan to do a follow-up or two on this in the future, first to see if I can stick with it and secondly to see if it makes much difference.
Let me know if you've done the same, or are interested in doing so.