I’m sure you’ve witnessed it – you sit down in a nice restaurant and see a group of people huddled around another table with their heads down fully immersed in their phones. Or, imagine a group of students “hanging out.” Each one is texting, taking selfies, or checking social media. No conversation. No eye contact. No connection. Maybe you’ve even participated in one of these groups at some point.

As of this year, more than 73% of Americans claim to have at least one social media account. Yet, for all this connectivity, a growing body of research suggests that we have never been lonelier. In a March 2015 report, the number of patients diagnosed with depression increases by 20% each year. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, someone in American attempts suicide every 12.95 minutes

 Percentage of U.S. Population with a Social Network Profile from 2008 to 2015

If that’s not alarming enough, we are so consumed with ourselves and our mobile devices that the word “Selfie” is now a word recognized by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the Selfie Stick is one of the hottest items on the market today. As a country, we are obsessed with capturing every moment of our existence, but we end up witnessing life’s most precious moments through the screens of our cell phones.

7 Helpful Tips to Avoid Cell Phone Dependency

The good news is that with awareness and effort, we can counter the loneliness. Here is a list of helpful tips to avoid becoming glued to your cell phone.

  1. When you sit down with a group of friends, have a “No Phone Zone” and put all devices away for a specified amount of time. Start with 30 minutes and see how much more you will learn about each other.
  2. Have a “Tech-free Night” with your family. Put away phones, computers, televisions, and tablets for a few hours to have a meal without interruptions (except the laughter), play a game, or go for a walk together.
  3. Don’t sleep in the same room as your devices. Leave the phones, computers, and tablets on the kitchen counter. Research shows that people sleep better and wake up more refreshed just by making this one small change.
  4. Reach out and do something unexpected for someone. One random act of kindness will have a significant impact on the recipient and on you.
  5. Ask a friend to meet you, in person, for a weekly coffee or a drink at the same location and same time. Then leave your phone in your purse/pocket for the entire conversation.
  6. Pick up the phone and call the individual you were about to text.
  7. When using Social Media, make your responses personal. Instead of a simple “Happy Birthday,” share a funny memory you have of the birthday girl or a “throwback” picture of the birthday guy. If you don’t know them well enough to have a personal memory or photo, either get to know them outside the social network or perhaps re-think the value of that connection.

As our country moves into the next generation of the internet: the “Social Web.” It’s increasingly more imperative that we put down the technology and create meaningful, in-person connections with those around us. This next phase of the web goes beyond having a social media account, but connectivity between all aspects of online activity and connected devices.

Over the next few days, take a few minutes to try at least one of the seven suggestions listed above. I would bet a cup of coffee that you’ll feel better after the experience. Follow up by calling me and letting me know how it went – I would love to talk with you about your experience. Here’s my number: 605-215-5106.

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