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?

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Ryan Foster says:

    Love this! Smartphones are incredible tools and terrible vices at the same time. I set my phone to Do Not Disturb in almost all of my face to face meetings, which allows only my short list of ‘favorite’ contacts to reach me, who already know where I am at, and not to call or text me in case it’s important – at that time.

    I have also learned to not keep my phone in my pocket at home, setting it down and often forgetting where I put it. Nothing seems as freeing as when I have ‘forgotten’ about my phone. Funny thing is I thought so many people would feel the pain from the other end. Apparently the world DOES go on without my response or “like” to a comment on facebook… (another topic about pride , lol!)

    • These comments are so good!!! I am in total agreement about the amazing realization that the world goes on without me. I am constantly amazed that I rarely, almost never, miss anything important when I put my phone down.

  • Mom (Stella) Thompson says:

    It amazing to me how the new inventions help and hurt. The smart phone causes a whole new set if issues that were meant to make life easier. Smart phone – where do you put it.? Is it comfortable in a pocket??? Is it in the other room, or upstairs??? Is it charged? Does it ring at the wrong place?

    In the olden days the phone was downstairs (no question about where it was). If you heard it you fled from wherever you were to catch it before the other party hung up, hoping not to trip on a rug or something else o ut of place. Three rings was about safe to answer and not have the caller still be there. If you missed the call you hoped the party would call back. If another member of the family was on the phone one had to wait patiently till all was clear. Siblings often stayed on the phone an hour or so causing an impatient wait and lots of irritations..

    The smart phone, at least, is yours. If it rings it’s for yo u. If you are shopping you have the choice of answering it or turning it off . Those of us of the ” greatest generation” never dreamed of such a convenience. In everything there is a season. We learn to adapt.

  • Dan Taylor says:

    I ‘m glad you decided to tackle this 600 pound gorilla.
    It only take a little human observation to realize the profound negative effect smart phone technology has on people.

    The negatives:
    1. Dininished interaction between husbands, wives, children, friends, co-worhers
    2. Personal space a. Separation b/w home & work life b. Individual privacy c. Quiet time for spiritual reflection
    3. Anxiety a. Always being on call b. Expectations of an immediate response c. Impatience- do it now menatality d. The preponderance of the me first mentality

    Taming the beast:
    Iphone- set defined do not disturb hours
    Dont carry your phone to bed, church, dinner
    Define your work hours then leve the phone in your desk until the next morning
    Have a second non- smart phone for family & close friends
    Establish boundaries for business
    This is just one positive set of possibilities to reign in this problem. Its the first step of many required to be in control of your own life and time; our most precio asset!
    Good luck to all.

  • Peter Croft says:

    Tommy – it’s been a while but love all this!

    One thing that helps in terms of distractions is turning your phone to grayscale. It’s amazing how much of the draw of looking at your phone to ‘check’ it fades away when the apps are not in color.

    To do this with iPhone you do this by going

    settings -> general -> accessibility -> display accommodations -> color filters.

    Switch on color filters and choose grayscale. To make it easy to switch back to normal (e.g. if you want to see color to look at photos) you can set up a shortcut so that when you triple click the home button it will switch back to normal color and if you want to turn on grayscale again, triple click again.

    settings -> general -> accessibility -> accessibility shortcut (at the bottom) and select color filters.