Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

Changing behaviour

My guide to not being an annoying phone ‘n’ internet person.

Thu, Aug 29, 2013, 19:12


(Pic by this guy.)

We’re all feeling it: the irritation with being so attached to phones, the fatigue of scrolling and scrolling through feeds, the web-induced attention deficit, the temptation to not be present, the relentless crutch of technology that removes us from a contemplative space.

I’ve written a fair bit about how I feel the internet has impacted on my attention span, and I’ve ranted and raved about Facebook and Snapchat and memory and privacy and online identity and all the rest. But ultimately, the real crux of the issue is how all of this stuff actually impacts YOU – your hand movements, your brain fizzing, your interactions in real life.

Plenty of technology is amazing, but it can impact negatively on our behaviour. I am so sick of facing obstacles in real life situations, conversations, interactions by the simple movement of someone taking their phone out of their pocket. Now I know how my parents felt when I was constantly texting away on my Nokia 3210 at the dinner table. Because of how my behaviour with technology began to irritate me, and other people’s behaviour began to irritate me even more, I’ve tried to change how I engage with technology on a physical level over the past six months or so. It’s half-experiment, half-neccessity, and I feel the better of it, so I thought I’d share. I am guilty of all of these things I’ve outlined below, but I’m trying to stop them. I guess this list could also be a guide to “how to become more unpopular than you already are.” As someone who generally dives into whatever new technology comes along and uses Twitter quite a lot as my primary social network, I am either well-positioned to offer a guide to changing annoying behaviour, or a hypocrite. Either way, here’s how I’ve adjusted my behaviour in 2013. I haven’t excelled at all of these things, but I’m trying.

1. Stop taking your phone out during real life conversations.
Seriously, I’m talking to you, I don’t care if you’ve just got a Snapchat notification. Checking your mail when you’re having pints with your mates, texting during a meal, staring at a screen when you’re talking to someone is just rude, annoying, and it means the conversation that’s actually happening is barely being paid attention to. It does require a certain amount of effort to break this habit. Your hand itches to reach into your pocket. But just check yourself.

2. Don’t take your phone to the bathroom.
You don’t really need to read Dlisted when you’re on the toilet. Seriously. Plus, can you imagine the amount of germs your phone is picking up? Gross!

3. Don’t use your phone when you’re out late at night.
Again, it’s rude. You’re detaching yourself from being present in a club or pub. You’re missing all of the stuff happening around you – the chats you might strike up in the smoking area instead of checking your Twitter, the glances from friends who’ve just walked in at the other side of the bar, the flirting that could happen if you weren’t stuck in your dating app. Plus, it’s late, you might have had a few drinks, no one wants to read your tipsy tweets.

4. Stop taking selfies.
This is a behaviour that I’ve really never warmed to. Maybe I’m alone in thinking people who take endless selfies are narcissistic, but that’s how I feel about it. I think they’re kind of cringey to be honest. I know what you look like already so quit clogging my Instagram feed with your pouting.

5. Think instead of Google.
We’re losing the art of searching for an answer. When you’re having a conversation where someone is trying to remember what movie so and so is in, or who played the first Witnness festival, the conversation stops because someone goes “I’m going to Google that.” Activate your brains, search your real memory, not your artificial one. Halting things by Googling means you also won’t bump into other memories or ideas that can come to light when you’re actually searching for something. Wikipedia holes are great, but you have the capacity to remember something, so stop eroding it.

6. Be alone.
Try this out: your friend has gone to the bathroom and you’re alone at the table. You’re waiting for the bus. You’re in an elevator. You’re alone in a taxi. You’re waiting to meet someone. Don’t take out your phone. Be alone. Look around you. The opportunity for contemplation is being replaced by technological distraction. Ideas come from percolation. Left alone to think, you never know what you might come up with. It will probably be more valuable than the content of the Daily Mail website.

7. Take something in before you photograph it.
Wow! A moment! Something beautiful! A sunset! Take it in. Soak in the image. Remember it. Reflect on it. If you really want to take a photograph, let that not be your first reaction. You’ll store it in your phone and probably never come back to it. You’ll forget it. Taking it in will lock it in your actual memory.

8. Stop photographing your food.
Eating good grub is a nice experience – how it smells, tastes, feels in your mouth. Interrupting this by angling your phone to snap a perfect image disrupts the actual experience. I was in a bar the other day (not naming any names *cough Dakota cough*) and the barman was so busy trying to take the perfect picture of a cocktail he just made, he didn’t notice me trying to order even though I was the only person waiting. Fail.

9. Snapchat is pretty pointless.
And kind of juvenile, in my opinion. Do you really need another notification in your life? Think about whether you really need to adopt a new medium before you just jump right on it. That goes for Vine and Instagram video too.

10. Be an audience.
Stop watching gigs through a screen, you’re missing everything. It’s annoying for the person beside you and behind you. And how many videos and photos from concerts to you really look back on? Experience it properly, keep your phone in your pocket.

11. You don’t have to respond to everything immediately.
Excuse yourself if you have to take a phonecall. Be courteous. Do you really need to check a text message the second your phone vibrates in your pocket? A good exercise is not checking texts immediately, and waiting a few minutes after one buzzes through. How many of your texts are super important? That latest one probably isn’t either.

12. Turn off as many notifications as you can.
The alerts I have on my phone are for phone calls, texts, and my morning alarm. Surprisingly, I am still alive and functioning without having my Instagram, email, Twitter and whatever else pinging constantly.

13. Stop playing mundane gaming apps.
Games are designed to be addictive. If you find yourself kept busy with them anytime you have a break, then you’re a sucker.

14. Stop crowdsourcing emotion and affirmation.
Retweets, likes, and favourable comments all trigger a mini dopamine release that is addictive, and likewise, getting pulled into negative arguments online is emotionally destructive. Detach yourself. Distinguish from real life emotional moments and online ones. The former tend to be more important.

15. Cool off on the dating apps.
Nothing compares to meeting people in real life, and responding to real faces and real interactions with real empathy and real encounters is… real!

16. Take a brain break.
Try to have at least one (waking) hour when you’re not attached to technology. It is relaxing and increases your level of clarity.

17. Get out of bed first.
And then check your phone. How many times have you ended up late out of bed and into the shower because you were messing around on your mobile?

18. Don’t let your phone be the last thing your interact with at night.
Delaying your sleep by having your laptop, iPad or phone to hand means your brain won’t actually be rested when you try to shut it down for the night. Being online right before you crash disrupts your sleep.

19. Be more personal.
If you have an opportunity to ring instead of text, send a card instead of leave a Facebook birthday message, hang out in real life instead of online, then do it. It’s nicer.

20. Be out of the office.
The nature of work has changed a huge amount because of technology, and one of the elements of this is that people are always ‘on’ or in work mode. If you really don’t need to be working, then stop checking your work mail and responding to work-related messages. Tomorrow is another day.

21. Try to include a digital detox in a holiday.
For those of us lucky enough to take a break from day to day life, make it a real break. Check out of social media or else you’ll never feel like you were away. A real rest means not following the #vinb hashtag or getting caught up in whatever internet storm of the day there is.

22. Burst the filter bubble.
We are increasingly only digesting news fitted for us, and things we want to hear. Reading a newspaper in print, for example, means your eye is often drawn to articles that wouldn’t pop up in your tailored news feed. Ideas come from colliding information, not just stuff that already interests you.

23. Don’t complain about a platform, leave it.
If Facebook wrecks your head, guess what – you don’t actually have to be on Facebook!

24. Cull your Twitter.
How many times do people complain about people on Twitter being annoying? You don’t have to follow them. I know that kind of contradicts point 22., but honestly, unfollowing a few people a month who don’t add value to your feed is a useful exercise.

25. Stop oversharing.
You will have nothing to talk about with your friends in real life if they know everything that’s going on from your social media.

26. Watch TV without Twitter.
One screen is enough.

27. If you are incorporating Google into your eyewear, I am going to make the totally unfair assumption that you are a sociopath.
Ok, Glass?

Feel free to continue this list in the comment section.