When I sit and reflect on the neuroscience of our relationship to Smartphones, many ideas come to mind and I’ll list them out in a moment. As for the brain, it’s common knowledge that when we practice and repeat things in life, the habit formation is tied to an area of the brain the size of a walnut called the basal ganglia. We also know that dopamine is a chemical that drives motivation and pleasure. A message arrives and there’s a reward to going and checking it, so the dopamine drives our behavior to check. One thing we may want to consider is that alongside all the wonderful things technology brings, it also often triggers our stress response. In the emotional center of the brain is the amygdala or “fear circuit” that can be easily triggered out of some perceived danger of missing a message. In other words, our Smartphones get linked to a biological stress or anxiety response.
At some point we have to pause and ask the question, “How’s this working for ya?”
One thing that most people would agree on is that at this point in time, technology, while being a great resource, is often controlling us more than we’re controlling it. It’s time to accept the reality of that and with this acceptance, step into a space of choice to build a more mature, effective and wiser relationship to it.
In a recent post I gave a number of ways to Optimize Our Relationship to Technology, but here is one more fun way you can do this in social settings.
Make it Social
When you get together with a group of friends of family around a meal or any social setting, see if the priority is to actually “be with” your friends, family or colleagues. Know that your brain is also conditioned to a certain habitual reaction to automatically being drawn to incoming messages.
Of course you could always put it on silent or turn it off, or even make a meditation out of watching your bodily reactions to the incoming message as I note in The Now Effect, but this game makes it social and will be much more fun.
Stack all the phones on top of one another and create some beneficial consequence for whoever picks up the phone first. If it’s around a meal at a restaurant, whoever picks up the phone first might pick up the tab of drinks or maybe the whole meal. If it’s at a house or just a social gathering, whoever picks up their phone first has to dance in the middle of everyone for a good minute.
Whatever you do is great; make it fun while bringing awareness to what truly matters.
As always, please share your ideas, stories and questions below. Your interaction makes a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Young girl with smartphone photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 7 Feb 2013