Are you in a staring contest with your smartphone?

Oct 03, 2016 by Brendan Jack

Here’s Looking at You, Kid. (Can you put down your smartphone for a minute?)

Can you read the next few paragraphs without skipping to another tab or social media app? The attention challenge is on.

We’ve all begun to compulsively carry a major weapon of mass distraction… the smartphone. They’ve become a bit like Linus blankets, used for comfort or companionship.

But in doing so, are we losing out on real life interaction?

Psychology Today calls eye contact the “strongest form of nonverbal communication.”

As mentioned in a previous Coolfidence article, odds are that you probably aren’t a hostage negotiator - but a lot of people (and their eyes) are taken hostage by their phones.

They crave the promise of distracting alert tones. Stats say we check our phones around 150 times a day. Social media and cellphones are the new cigarettes and alcohol, lighting up our brains with dopamine. The dopamine released by notifications and refreshed feeds is the new crack in our global 'hood.

We need more eye contact and less iContact - which is probably some Mac-based messaging app. More face time, less FaceTime.

Higher EQ

Staring at a screen conditions us to not listen properly and aids in forgetting details due to lack of concentration.

It also seems to add to shorter attention spans. How many more full-length books got read before smartphones started delivering us bite-size articles, just long enough to read between meetings?

There are studies that propose that people who make more eye contact derive benefits such as becoming more compassionate and less selfish.

It also makes us look more trustworthy and more engaged.

Who do you hire, someone who engages you eye to eye, or the person shiftily staring at their shoes or glancing at their phone on the boardroom table?

If someone ignores you for their phone, you know they’re not mentally engaged and it can damage trust. Put yourself in the other seat: How would you feel if someone kept missing parts of your conversation because their phone was far more fascinating?

Eye contact enables us to gauge other people’s emotions, vulnerability and feelings while they're in front of you. Which is essential for developing emotional intelligence.

WiFi Virus

If eyes are the window to the soul, are cellphones and electronic devices stealing our souls?

Humphrey Bogart didn’t say, "Here’s looking at you, kid” while staring his mobile screen.

The zombie virus has been spreading for years, people walking and driving around with their eyes on small screens, not being completely mindful of their surroundings. It’s also spread across the generations and age groups in minimal time. Let’s not even speculate life when virtual reality goggles become a daily thing. It won’t take long to see the first person photographed driving with goggles while engaged in a virtual reality world.

Some apps and programs are created to reduce time available on devices, and there are now conferences where cellphones or internet connection is banned, so that attendees can learn to connect again without distraction.

When you’re staring at the 'black mirror’, there's less chance of chatting to the old timers sitting on the pavement, or even to your neighbour as you both shuffle past each other lost in other digital dimensions.

Which begs the question, do we need to be connected to the cloud all the time?

No phone interface can beat face-to-face. Unless the person is totally boring and you’re trying to get out of speaking to them – but that’s a completely different problem.

Summing up

Take a time out with another human, and remember to keep practicing eye contact. It might be on its way out, along with handwriting.

That “cats of Pinterest” session can wait until you’ve finished liaising with the human in front of you. Even if you’re low on cash, you can still you afford to pay attention.

Don’t let people online whom you've never met become priority over family and friends in real life.

Like Bryan Adams said, "Look into my eyes, you will see, what you mean to me…” (Now you can enjoy that song in your head all day.)

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