Do you sleep with your cell phone? If so, you’re not alone. More than 40% of adult Americans do, according the Pew Center’s Internet and American Life Project. Also 76 percent of 2,254 respondents say they have experienced “phantom rings,” checking their phones even when they don’t ring or vibrate.
Sam Chapman reports having experienced phantom vibrations. He often read and sent emails in the middle of the night. He slept poorly and awakened tired. He says he was addicted to his smartphone. Realizing that this was a problem probably shared by others, Chapman, head of Empower Public Relations, recently adopted a policy for his company: no smartphones for his employees from 6 at night until 6 the next morning and no smartphone use for business on weekends. By disconnecting for at least a short while workplace productivity is up, he reports.
As is becoming increasing clear, there is a price to be paid for being constantly connected and always in touch. I think back to when I lived with my wife and two children in Kenya for four months, on a hillside not far from Lake Victoria, when the world seemed never closer—and never further away. The neighborhood abounded with all things human: passion and jealousy, marriage and death, births, births, always more births, friendships and religious antagonisms, cooperation and crime.
But there was also quiet enough to hear birds sing in the trees and cows low on farms. There was time enough to think and follow my own thoughts.
This was the time before computers, cell phones and, at my place, electricity. The nearest telephone was two valleys away. I read no newspapers and once a week bought a news magazine. I kept abreast of events on my battery-powered radio. We eagerly waited for letters from home that arrived about once a week.
Being disconnected wasn’t easy at first. But just as distance runners talk about breaking through the wall, there came a time when we settled in and boredom disappeared. There was a profound sense of just being.
That which had seemed vital to know about immediately while in the United States could wait. The important things, I realized, were those matters nearest at hand. Learning about disasters, the state of the economy, and political events could wait.
Breathlessness wasn’t a constant companion, anxiety wasn’t related to missing the latest message. I learned that emergencies are rare events.
Being part of the world shouldn’t be a persistent burden but rather a source of power. The lure of the Internet, immediate and constant contact with others can be more than a distraction; it can be an addiction.
I tell this to myself every morning as I read two newspapers; I tell myself this during the day as I check my emails, and I remind myself throughout the day and evening I plug into the news.
But the news before going to bed? We need lullabies before sleep, not horror stories. As for sleeping with the phone? No addiction is helpful.