You know that handheld device you have in your pocket? The one you use to take photos, update social media feeds, find directions, shop online, play games and send instant messages?

Did you know it can also be used to make phone calls?

Yes, I jest, but the crazy thing is that a surprisingly low number of people ( 34 percent) use a smartphone primarily for what its name suggests: as a phone.

Here's the thing -- using your smartphone to actually talk to real people could have tremendous benefits to you, especially if you use it to talk to old (long-standing) friends.

According to Psychology Today, talking to old friends satisfies our "deepest emotional needs for connecteness. It's not only that we feel more comfortable with them (which we do) but that they know how to make us feel good. At another level, old friends can also validate your sense of self. They accept you for who you are, flaws and all, and reinforce your own identity as a person who matters."

If talking to old friends matters so much, why aren't we talking to them?

More than likely, many of us believe we are "connecting" with old friends because we are "connected" via social media. Reading posts and seeing updates, however, hardly satisfies our need for "connecteness." Moreover, using texts or instant messages that lack tone and sincerity only exasperate the disconnection.

Instead, we need the "emotional" connection that only comes through real interaction with them.

So here is the challenge: This coming week, spend a mere 15 minutes each day to reach out to at least old friend by phone. Here are some tips for those of you who might need help:

Pick a personal friend you have not spoken with in more than a few months.

All of us have old high school or college friends or first job colleagues that share a special place in your memory. How great would it be to spend a few minutes catching up and walking down memory lane with them?

Call them.

Do not send a text message. Do not send a Facebook message. Do not send a Snap. Use the phone function on your phone to dial the number and let it ring. Do you remember how to do that?

Talk.

Plan on spending 15 minutes to have a very informal chat. Tell your friend you were thinking of them because of something that reminded you of them. You don't need to spend hours on the phone with them -- just the sound of each other's voice will provide tremendous gratification to both of you.

Or leave a message.

I'll be the first to admit I do not like phone voice messages. Instead of leaving a message, tell a quick story. Talk about why you are calling and what prompted you to call. It is fine if you ramble on for a little while, as your voice telling a great story can be listened to at the recipient's convenience (and as often as they want).

Be happy.

The sound of an old friend's voice, the rehashing of a great story, hearing about new achievements -- all these things will bring you comfort and joy, if you allow yourself the time to disconnect, focus and really connect by phone. If nothing else, it will give you perspective and remind you of the things that are really important in your life.

What do you think? When was the last time you connected with someone with whom you had not spoken in a long while? Please share your thoughts and reflections with others in the comments below.

Published on: Aug 27, 2017