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Pay attention to how you use your cellphone

Rachel Velishek • May 15, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Have you ever heard about the psychological experiment involving Pavlov and his dog? Pavlov was a scientist who conditioned his dog: When a doorbell rang, the dog expected food, and its mouth started to water.

Our society has been conditioned to have a similar response to cell phones. If you were to be completely honest with yourself, what is your immediate response when you hear the ring, ding, or vibration?

Once we are aware of the phone notification, we are immediately pulled to reach for the phone, regardless of what we may be doing. Even if we do not answer the phone, most of us check to see the source of noise, who is calling, texting, or commenting. Newer phones have the screen time monitoring, which provides a weekly report of total use, time social networking, productivity, amount of pickups, notifications, and other information. I know I am not alone when I say the numbers are terrifying.                  

Have you ever found yourself frustrated after you rush to the phone only to realize that it was a wrong number or an unknown number that never left a voicemail? Our conditioned response to immediately react to the sound of a notification creates frustration when the expectation of response is unmet.                  

Our society has this scary sense of immediacy. We have developed an unrealistic expectation of immediate gratification. As a result, we often feel compelled to immediately respond to emails, texts, and phone calls. We have become so conditioned to immediately respond that we have lost patience.

The question then becomes this: are you Pavlov (the master) or are you Pavlov’s dog? The next time someone calls, texts, or messages you consider the challenge to stop, think, and observe your response. Are you running to the phone? Are you stopping everything you are doing in order to immediately respond? Are you ignoring your children to respond to a text? If you are truly honest with yourself, and you develop an increased awareness regarding your conditioned response, the intent becomes to reduce the urge of immediacy and increase the time spent on the present.

I challenge you to stop using your smartphone for one week. Focus on your own thoughts and feelings. Learn to trust yourself, not Google. Learn to confide in humans not social media. Read the actual newspaper, not screenshots of events. Most importantly, spend time with the people nearest and dearest to you. Develop relationships based on the real-time interactions you have and take some time for yourself. There are 168 hours in a week. How many of those hours are you spending on your device? How much of your time is a conditioned response? According to my screen time monitoring app I average three hours a day on my phone. Three hours!

I recognize that my phone is used as a necessary device. It’s how I pay bills, talk with family and friends, research information, and more. The time spent on productive tasks is not a conditioned response. It is a way I choose to live my life in a technology-driven world. It is the time I average on social media, and the time I spend messaging friends, versus talking on the phone, that has been conditioned.

I know that not everyone wants to change the habits they have developed. I have often shared information regarding the value of being present: the emotional, mental, and physical benefits of positive interactions and the improved perception of self when we accept our past and engage in the present. I am only suggesting that we increase our awareness regarding our use of time and condition ourselves to focus on real life and present moment interactions.

I once read a study in which participants were split into groups. Group A was granted permission to use cellphones to capture images of famous art, and group B was told no electronic devices were permitted at all. The result of the study is fascinating. Group A had difficulty recalling details of the art, who was with them, and where it was located. On the other hand, Group B was able to recall more specific details. Group B took the time to focus on what was important. Creating a memory is different than capturing a memory.

It would be nice to get back to a point in our society where we‘re conditioned to create more memories for ourselves versus capturing the moments of others.

Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 2, Suite C, 282 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. Her office can be reached at 419-668-0311. For more information on Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.

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