The Cell Phone Clutch
The act of taking out a cell phone from one’s pocket or purse, resulting in other people in the vicinity taking out and checking their phones as well.
From Urban Dictionary
This would be even funnier were it not so true. There’s that awkward pause at a party or work event when suddenly someone starts checking their phone. Of course I feel compelled to pick up mine. I want to look important and busy too, even if all I’m doing is checking out Facebook.
Now the distraction of a mobile phone can be a glorious thing. It’s made me a much more amenable passenger in a car, particularly in traffic when I can pass the time or catching up on blog posts. Being able to respond to a time-sensitive email right away without having to worry about getting back to a computer to answer eliminates a lot of unnecessary stress. I like the security of knowing that if I lock my keys in my car or forget my wallet, I can call someone right away. (Not that I’ve ever locked my keys in the car. Or forgotten my wallet. Or both. Or both on multiple occasions. But I digress).
As much as I kid (kinda) about being surgically attached to my iPhone, I think it’s important for me to be aware of the flip side or shadow side of my smart phone. I’m noticing how whenever there’s waiting: waiting in line at the grocery store; waiting for an event to start; waiting for another person, my automatic impulse is to reach for my phone. Do I really need to anything that important? Am I really enhancing my life by whatever I cram in doing on my phone for five minutes?
So my relationship with my iPhone? “It’s complicated.” But here’s where I can draw on my yoga practice for relationship advice. Yoga is a process of paying attention and becoming aware of our habits and learning new ways to work in ways that are beneficial for ourselves. I can use this same approach to look at when my cell phone is beneficial and where it isn’t serving me well.
The point of being conscious of my cell phone habits is not to denounce technology (“Cell phones are making us an unfeeling, detached, self-absorbed society”), nor be judgmental (“If only I were more yogic and practiced greater non-attachment to object, I wouldn’t be so glued to my phone”). Rather, it’s a matter of paying attention and observing my behavior. Sometimes I notice grabbing my cell phone makes me happy, such as sending a funny text to a friend. It brings a burst of connection in my day. Other times I see that I use my cell phone as a way to procrastinate that task I’m avoiding. The constant checking (be it email, Facebook, Twitter, or the latest news) makes it hard for me to settle down. I will try to read a book and I’ll feel compelled to check something online or I remember an email I forgot to send, and then realize I haven’t followed anything on the page that I just read.
Striking a balance between making the most of the ever-increasing cool stuff you can do on a phone and taking time to be unplugged is a common juggling act most of us are negotiating these days. Being aware of the clutch is the first step in determining what kind of relationship you want to have with your cell phone. My iPhone and I are still working on ours.