A couple of weeks ago, I got to spend an amazing weekend in the woods way up in Northern Minnesota. I attended a camp for entrepreneurs and artists and assorted “dreamers” and “doers.” It was all made possible because of my smartphone.

  • There isn’t anything wrong with smartphones, but sometimes there is something wrong with the way people use them.
  • There are people who spend their whole day with their face looking down at their phone.
  • As grown-ups we get to decide what is best for us -- including when we use our smartphones.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to spend an amazing weekend in the woods way up in northern Minnesota. I attended a camp for entrepreneurs and artists and assorted “dreamers” and “doers.” It was all made possible because of my smartphone.

We listened to speakers, went on long hikes, drank adult beverages and roasted marshmallows around a campfire. It was an experience like none that I have ever had, and I feel fortunate that I got to go. And I plan to attend again next year.

There were times when we were totally off the grid in areas where there is no cell phone service, but never for more than a few hours.

We were told to leave our laptops at home. I brought my iPad and never took it out of my bag.

Knowing that I could be easily reached most of the time made the event fun and stress-free for me, and knowing that I could access files and get documents signed, if needed, helped make the event guilt free.

Family members contacted me a couple of times with comments and questions and a few updates, and a prospective client sent an email asking to see some condos.

I said no and lost his business, and I am totally all right with that. It won’t be the first time I lost a little business because I could not or would not respond to someone who could not let me know that he would be in town until he got here on a Friday evening.

No need to apologize

One of the other campers was upset because she somehow managed to destroy her phone charger. I gave her an extra charger that I carry in my car. She was apologetic about having to have her phone with her in the woods so she could send and receive videos with her children and husband.

I told her not to apologize, that it is her phone and her choice and that as long as she wasn’t bothering any of the other campers using her phone, it shouldn’t be a problem and she shouldn’t apologize.

Sure, there are people who spend their whole day with their face looking down at their phone. I have seen them downtown and have had to work not to run over them with my bike when they step out into the street.

Not everyone needs their phone attached to them

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I have some young clients who share a flip phone and forget to keep it with them or turn it on. They both use social media but not on the phone. They don’t seem to need to check Facebook 20 times a day.

If I went out with a bunch of friends and they told me to turn my phone off and put it on the table, I would have to say no. If my friends need to do that, it is their choice.

I’ll leave my phone in my pocket with on vibrate, and my friends will just have to trust that I won’t sit at the table and look at my phone because I won’t.

To some people taking a vacation, “off the grid” is a big deal. I guess if I had that kind of an opportunity I would enjoy it too, but I have responsibilities for others that don’t go away just because I need a vacation.

It’s not the smartphone’s fault

There isn’t anything wrong with smartphones, but sometimes there is something wrong with the way people use them.

Last year, I was rear-ended on a freeway exit ramp by someone who was texting while driving.

Prospective clients are often impressed with the way I respond to calls and to text messages. Our main company phone number accepts text messages, and it has been a gold mine for leads that are very easy to capture.

It only takes a couple of seconds to respond to a text message, and that response can result in thousands of dollars in future business.

We always have choices about which messages we respond to and when we respond.

I won’t respond to text messages while I am driving, even though they are read to me through the speakers on my car. Sometimes I’ll respond to phone calls, but only if I recognize the number — and I never touch the phone.

Having the phone on doesn’t mean that I have to answer every or any call that comes in. I have been known to let them go to voicemail but do my best to return calls every two to four hours. I have left voicemail messages during business hours with real estate agents who never returned my call.

I won’t leave my phone ringer on during a class or while in a quiet place or event. That would be rude, but if I have to I will leave the room to take a call if it is an emergency or really important.

Facebook and Twitter are another matter, and I never looked at either while I was in the woods. I can go days without looking at either of them on my phone, and I am finding that with both of them, less is more — especially during this election cycle.

Instagram is a little different in that I can post a photo and look at a few photos and move on.

There is no right or wrong way to use a mobile phone, and it looks like they are here to stay; they have changed the way we live and the way we work.

As grown-ups we get to decide what is best for us. As long as we don’t interrupt or disrupt others or endanger ourselves or others by looking at a phone instead of watching where they are walking or driving, we should be free to use our phones however we choose.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman

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