Is Your Cellphone Distancing You From the Real World

How often have you seen couples sitting together at nice restaurants but interacting with their cellphones instead of with each other?

How can you identify which relationships are on shaky ground? It’s those families that, while travelling in the same car, have members engrossed in the own private cellphone worlds.

How often have you walked into an elevator at work and pulled out your cellphone, scrolling though old messages in order to avoid talking to an acquaintance?

Today a cellphone does so much more than simply make calls. From socialising (now conveniently touted ‘social networking’) to keeping up with an overfull email inbox at work, to saving passwords, listening to music and taking pictures, cellphones have evolved into devices that become us more than our clothes or our designations at work. Anyone without a smartphone or a BlackBerry is considered old-school; being available at all times is now no longer a necessity but a ‘given’.

But is your cellphone distancing you from real-world relationships instead of connecting you to people? Take this simple test to find out whether you’re spending too much time liaising over the phone instead of engaging in real, face-to-face conversations:

1. Would you rather read out a joke to a group of friends you’re with, or would you send them the joke through BBM, WhatsApp or text message?

2. Do you call or text your family members/roommates who are in a different part of the house instead of getting up and going to the next room?

3. Do you take calls from unknown numbers when you’re at a family dinner or at a coffee shop with friends? What about unimportant calls from known contacts?

4. Do you ping friends living in your city on Instant Messenger/send them an email,  or do you call them up to chat for a few minutes?

5. Do you usually carry your phone to the lunch table while at work? Keith Ferrazzi, in his book ‘Never Eat Alone’, writes that “invisibility is a fate worse than failure” when at work. He recommends finding out a little about a lot of topics by eating with a different person or group each day.

6. If you’re not doing anything at home, how likely are you to reach for your cellphone to update your Facebook wall or post a link on Twitter?

7. Is your phone the first thing you reach for as soon as you wake up? Do you read new emails and text messages before you get out of bed?

8. How comfortable or uncomfortable are you with leaving your phone at home for a day? How do you feel at the thought of your battery draining out and your phone being switched off for a few hours today?

If you felt even the slightest twinge of guilt while reading any of the questions above, ask yourself whether your phone is distancing you from the real world.

If you’re guilty of three or more of the above behaviours, you’re already on the road to isolation from the real world.

If you answered in the affirmative to five or more of the eight questions, you might already have withdrawn into your own shell.

This isn’t a problem that calls for a set of solutions, either from me or from anyone else. But in order to convince yourself to do something about it, check the SAR, or Specific Absorption Rate of your cellphone model. SAR measures how much radio frequency energy is emitted by the phone and likely to be absorbed by the human body. Did you know, for example, that the BlackBerry Curve ranks eighth from the top on the list of the 20 cellphone handsets emitting the highest radiation?