Do you ever wonder why we have such a hard time breaking our obsession with our smartphones? Consider the Law of Proximity. The Law of Proximity states, “We give our attention to that which is closest to us.” It makes sense. We don’t lose sleep over terrible atrocities in other countries, even though they are truly terrible. When tragedy strikes our neighbor, though, we are devastated. When our own family is impacted, we drop everything to attend to them. That which is close to us affects us.
Back to our smartphones. What could be closer to us than our smartphones? We carry them with us everywhere. Most people sleep with them right by their bed. In terms of proximity, we would be hard pressed to think of anything that is more constantly close to us than our smartphones. Plus they never argue with us. They entertain us. They fill our empty places. They help us stay in touch and become more productive. We depend on our smartphones! We love our smartphones!
Yet we know something is not healthy about the degree of attachment we have with our phones. How can we change this? One effective tactic is to turn the Law of Proximity on its head. We detach from our smartphones for specific periods of the day and night. This may be painful at first because our addiction is deep. If so, take baby steps. Here are specific suggestions:
- Charge your smartphone in another room. Get an alarm clock if necessary. Late night texts and notifications can wait until the morning.
- Put your smartphone in another room during meals. If eating out, leave your smartphone in the car.
- Turn off all but the most necessary of notifications. The buzz or ding of notifications act as a stimulant (think Pavlov’s dogs). When we turn off the notifications, we are saying to our phones, “we control you, you do not control us.”
- Try turning your phone all the way off when you need to focus (or relax) for an hour or so.
- If you are really bold, then begin charging your phone early in the evening and go “tech-free” until the morning.
One more brief thought about the Law of Proximity. Getting close to what is good is as important as avoiding things that are bad? Books are better than smartphones. Healthy food can replace junk food in our pantries. Draw close to people who bring out the best in you and avoid the toxic people in your life.
How does the Law of Proximity apply in your life?