The “Phone People.” Be afraid. Be very afraid…

“Table for two, right this way.”

The host called out my name and guided my boyfriend and I over to a spot on the patio.

It was a glorious, unfairly beautiful summer morning (thanks, global warming!) and we had been waiting an eternity to snag a table at the hottest brunch spot in town. (Portlanders take brunch very seriously. Waiting up to an hour or more is not uncommon.)

We ordered a round of pineapple mimosas, French toast and breakfast corn dogs (whaaat? now!) and sank into our chairs feeling gleeful. What a day!

Then, as we often do, we started scanning the tables around us.

Our favorite restaurant-game is to identify people who appear to be “on a date” and then invent stories about them. (“She’s a librarian who still believes in true love. He’s a computer programmer with a heart of gold, yet hiding a dark secret. They’re going to have their first kiss between the book stacks… tonight!”)

But this morning, we struggled to spot lusty couples.


Because every single table was full of people… on their phones.

We did a quick survey and literally every single table had a minimum (minimum!) of two smartphones resting on the surface. Many brunchers held phones in their hands or on their laps. Many were snapping photos of the food. I do believe one person was snapping a photo of someone snapping a photo of their food. Many were texting while peering over the top of their phone to simultaneously chat with their dining companions. Or ignoring their companions completely.

We started to play a new game.

When a new group of diners got seated at their table, we would place our bets.

“How many seconds before at least 1 person at the table pulls out their phone?”

I generously wagered, “40 seconds.” I was way off. The average was 14 seconds. Whoa.

I started to feel extremely distressed.

“What is going on here? This is really insane. I am quitting Instagram right away!” I declared, amidst bites of syrup-soaked toast. (And shortly after that, I did.)

I couldn’t stop thinking about “The Phone People,” as we dubbed them — a play on the 1980s horror film The Pod People — and even right now, as I look around the coffee shop where I am working, I see them. I see them everywhere. Texting. Tapping. Refreshing. Staring. Glued to their screens. It’s relentless.

It makes me feel very emotional and I just recently, I have realized why:

Because I am a Phone Person, too.

I don’t play video games on my phone. I don’t use social media anymore. I don’t snap photos obsessively anymore.

But I do spend 75% of my waking hours attached to some kind of screen, be it a laptop, phone, or reading device.

75% of my LIFE.

This is COMMON for Americans.

This is NOT GOOD.

I am starting to formulate my career / business plan for next year — 2016 — and several friends and mentors have asked me what kinds of writing services I plan to offer, if I will teach any workshops, or make any new e-courses, etc.

Honestly, at this point? I have no idea.

All I know is that next year, I do not want to spend more than 4 hours per day in front of a screen.

That is my #1 goal.

I am announcing it here, publicly, to make it feel even more serious and real.

I will hold that goal as my “bottom line,” and I will try to design the rest of my life / career accordingly.

Feeling similarly? Some questions to consider:

– How many years of your life are you willing to pour into a screen?

– How many hours or minutes per day?

– What does a “healthy, sane, reasonable” relationship with technology look like to you?

– How could you get closer to that kind of relationship right now, as well as long term?

– What’s the potential cost if you don’t?

These are big questions and we all have our own unique answers.

One thing is very clear for me:

None of us were born to be “Phone People.”

We are born for much grander lives and bigger adventures than that.

There has to be a better way of living in the modern world and engaging with technology.

I trust that, collectively, as a human race, we will figure it out.

Step #1 is simple:

Put your freaking phone… down.