Save Your Relationships: 3 Reasons To Put Down Your Cell Phone

Letting the cards fly through my fingers, I wondered how long it had been since I’d shuffled a deck, let alone learned a new game.

I straddled the picnic bench and leaned in, listening to the rules of the game in a hostel.

On the remote coast of Mozambique, we couldn’t have hooked up to the WiFi if we wanted to, and the digital detox made for the best traveling and bonding I have ever done in my life.

It also got me thinking about an issue that's been talked about for years: Why do we feel the need to bring our smartphones with us when we go on vacation?

It’s like we can’t walk without the invisible leash of an iPhone tugging at our fingers and our brains.

But, vacation or not, unplugging more often helps your interpersonal relationships for so many reasons.

Here are three of them:

1. You can hear (and see) conversations.

When was the last time you put down your phone the moment someone started talking to you?

If you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed or responding to a text, it’s impossible to be fully engaged in the conversation.

In 2008, NPR reported that scientists debunked the multitasking myth. Neuroscientist Earl Miller says:

"People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves. The brain is very good at deluding itself.”

If the science won’t convince you, the social cues should. Having a conversation with someone who is hypnotized by a screen is the wrong kind of disconnect Millennials should be striving for.

Put the phone down and look your friend in the eye, even if the conversation is mundane, and even if you see the person frequently.

More than half of communication is reportedly nonverbal, and if you’re attached to your device, you really don’t know what you’re missing.

2. You are more honest.

Wait, backspace a bit. Pick a different emoji. Before you post that, are you sure you want to use so much contrast? Scale it back a little.

Yes, there it is. Perfect. Post.

Spending more time talking and engaging means you can’t edit every word that comes out of your mouth because you don’t have time to.

This isn’t about spilling secrets or oversharing, but if you want to be more authentic, try to live without such a heavy filter.

Call your close friends and relatives to tell them the big news; don’t direct the traffic to your Facebook page.

3. It helps you figure out who you really are.

Imagine for a moment what life would be like if you had no phone to reach for during all of the awkward silences, the backseat car rides, the boring classes and staff meetings.

Would you have the same friends? Would you meet the same people?

“When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure,” writes Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied technologies of mobile connection for the last few years. “Our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.”

When it gets down to the proverbial wire, who do you want to be?

Do you want to be the person who can take quiet elevators and make eye contact with strangers?

Can you walk without headphones buried in your ears? Can you put the phone down to open yourself to the serendipitous meetings our generation has only heard of?

I know who I want to be. It’s the woman who can play a mean hand of gin rummy and leave the technology for when I really need to check in. I hope you’ll join me.