Slave or Tool?

Question: Recently my spouse told me that I’m constantly on my smartphone. I guess this is probably true but I’m not sure it’s necessarily a bad thing. Is it?

Answer: How times have changed. I know I sound like an old geezer, but when I started in business in 1975, there weren’t smartphones, and computers weren’t available for everyday use. Heck, we didn’t even have fax machines back then and I don’t think we had a copy machine either. I remember that we used carbon paper – hey Millennials, have you ever seen carbon paper? Thinking back, I don’t even know how we did business “back in the day.” Obviously we did, but technology has accelerated our capabilities beyond belief. Younger people take this technology for granted since they know nothing else. But the advances that we’ve seen in recent times are both a blessing and a curse.

I have found myself being a slave to my smartphone. These things are really cool with all of the applications that can be downloaded. Go to any restaurant or coffee shop and you’ll see patrons with their heads down looking at their smartphones. I know I rationalize my own behavior by pointing to the fact that I’m being “on-the-spot efficient” with my time and “customer-centric” when reading and responding to e-mails in the car, at the restaurant, on vacation and just about everywhere else. The other day I made a conscious effort not to look at my smartphone while eating dinner in a restaurant. It wasn’t easy.

Obviously we can use our smartphones as a tool, or be enslaved by them. Here’s what I’ve decided. If we find ourselves needing to be on our smartphones a large percentage of the time, then we’re probably in the slave category. Think about this. If we are in a meeting, with other people or driving in our car and just can’t resist the urge to check our phone, then we may need to take stock.

Here are the questions I ask myself to determine if I’m using my smartphone as a tool or not. When I turn it on is it because I feel a compulsion to do so? Is the use of my smartphone at a given time rude to others? Does its use create an unsafe situation (i.e. while driving)? Am I using my smartphone in the presence of another person because I subconsciously want to avoid a conversation with that person? Did I just check my e-mail two minutes ago? Five minutes ago? Ten minutes ago? How do I feel if I don’t check my smartphone when the urge hits me? Anxious? Guilty?

Smartphones are wonderful inventions and can be a real blessing in our lives. To keep from allowing ourselves to become enslaved by them we must regularly and intentionally check our motivations for using them. Only then will they truly be the tool we want them to be.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

cellphones

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