Pause Social Media. Be Socially Present

Pause Social Media. Be Socially Present. Caleb Storkey

Pause Social Media. Be Socially Present

At the beginning of Social Media Week, I wanted to take a step back from all the shiny toys and sparkly strategies.

We all experience it, and many of us are guilty of it. Social Ineptitude. But sometimes, it’s hard not to be addicted to our phones and the instant fix of communication that we miss the depth of significant conversation when it’s right before our eyes. As a result we don’t make the most of the opportunities before us, what we can achieve through them, and the impact the connection could have. This can lead to someone feeling ignored by us and therefore withdrawing resulting in a loss of sale, or someone finding us rude and caught up in our own world. It rarely impresses anyone.

Here are 8 steps to changing this habit.

1. Meet with people you choose to. There’s no point wasting time pretending to be with someone when you don’t want to be with them, and as a result not being present by being on your phone anywhere. It’s better for everyone if we choose who we spend our time with.

2. Before you meet someone, decide whether there is any vital communication that you’re waiting to receive that is more time sensitive and important than the person you are seeing. Emergencies do crop up, so make sure you are managing those well. If so, let them know that you need to keep your phone on and that you may need to take a call. Better to be up front from the start, so they can manage their expectations. 

3. Put your phone on silent and non vibrate, and put it in a pocket or facing head down to avoid the wandering eyes syndrome. Make it clear to the person you’re with that you’re turning your phone off. If appropriate perhaps request a phone free 20 minutes from them too. It immediately raises their expectations that you consider this conversation to be important and a priority to you, and it may shake them out of their own lethargy if they’re not fully present.

4. Take responsibility for the conversation, and take initiative as to where you want it to go. Have a purpose for it. If you’ve requested for the phone to be off, than you should do the courtesy of being more interesting than anything else they were looking at. Considering that you have access to all of their senses, if you’re intentional, you’ll win hands down.

5. Enjoy listening intently. Allow the person you are with to feel like they are the most important person in the world to you whilst you’re talking. As Ralph Nichols said: ‘The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.’ Whatever the subject of the conversation, the art of listening and asking good questions is a gateway to deeper understanding.

6. Get in the habit of batching so that you don’t feel like you’re getting withdrawal symptons. Reduce your need to check your phone, by working your way down to checking your emails twice a day- once at 10am and once at 5pm. There’s so much inefficiency in our culture of constant checking. For more see Tim Ferris’s blog.

7. Get into digital habits. Is it really that important to take a photograph of your food? If you’re needing to check in with Yelp or Foursquare can you do so as you arrive and before you sit down? Take off  the notification numbers of numbers of emails, tweets, or text messages that are waiting for you, so you’re not tempted to check them if you’re needing to use your phone at any point during the meeting.  Have a different device for note-taking in your meeting. If you’re with friends,  be straight and up front with them. Everyone’s time is precious. Be with those who give it to you. Give the socially present people you’re attention and happily ignore those who are ignoring you.

8. Habits take time to shift. You’ll blow out every now and again, and that’s understandable. Therefore build in healthier contingencies. Build in loo visits if you find yourself getting the phone shakes.

So what do you do to be socially present? I’d love to hear your tips and strategies.

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8 thoughts on “Pause Social Media. Be Socially Present

  1. This is incredible advice. There is nothing I hate more than to be in a meeting and see people staring at their phones the entire time. Even worse to be invited to somebody’s house for dinner only for them to be more engaged with their phone than me. It all started with iPhones, so I blamed them for years, but today it’s all platforms. Thanks for this post. I hope more people will take this information to heart.

    • Thanks Brady. Recently with friends we’ve implemented a new approach when we’re out for dinner. All the phones go in the middle, and the first person to need to ‘check it’ picks up the bill! It’s great- and it’s amazing how people are willing to focus on those around, if it’s going to cost a few quid!

  2. How did we get here? All good observations, Caleb, and for me, it’s about a loss of curiosity – in real people & the here and now. There’s a great book called Curious which touches on why that quality makes the difference between happy & fulfilled lives and lives that are something else completely. Seems the virtual world has created this constant need for a communications fix – except it’s not really communication at all is it? Isn’t it interesting how quickly these habits have become embedded in so many people’s behaviour? Addiction is a word that springs to mind…

    • I’d agree with you that tech can be somewhat addictive. At least once a year I need to have a tech fast. And whenever I do, it amazes me what bad habits have formed. (Like how many times a day do I really need to check the Guardian newspaper app!).

      I think technology is incredible, but as with anything, if we’re not intentional about it we can end up ‘serving it’ as opposed to it ‘serving’ us. However, I’d be cautious to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater- there’s so much potential if we can held it in a healthy tension.

      Here’s the ‘Curious’ book you’ve mentioned. I haven’t read it, but it looks interesting.

      Thanks for your comment!

    • I’d agree with you that tech can be somewhat addictive. At least once a year I need to have a tech fast. And whenever I do, it amazes me what bad habits have formed. (Like how many times a day do I really need to check the Guardian newspaper app!). Give me my fix. Give me my fix!

      I think technology is incredible, but as with anything, if we’re not intentional about it we can end up ‘serving it’ as opposed to it ‘serving’ us. However, I’d be cautious to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater- there’s so much potential if we can held it in a healthy tension.

      I like the sound of ‘Curious’ (Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life) book you’ve mentioned. I haven’t read it, but it looks interesting…

      Thanks for your comment!