We are all guilty of it, and I’m probably the world’s biggest offender. Whether I find myself in an elevator, riding a cab, waiting to be seated at dinner or simply walking down the street. the second there’s a slow or dull moment, my body instinctively grabs for my phone. It could be Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or even stock or news apps — but nonetheless, the story stays the same. I open and mindlessly begin to scroll. It’s become very evident that my brain has developed this case of technology ADD. Keep scrolling, keep reloading, keep liking. I can’t stand it. But I constantly live in this cycle … and I know I’m not alone in that.
On long trips I totally understand the need to occupy yourself with something to pass the time. Even on my daily subway commute that’s only a few quick stops, I think I’d go crazy without something to do. But to me, there’s as overall feeling that looms where the world feels more isolated and antisocial than ever, with the combination of people zoned into their screens, plugged into their music, and thus creating their own little worlds and avoiding natural human interaction at all possible times.
It’s a known fact many aspects of daily cellphone use are truly a form of addiction. There are studies that liken getting “likes” on various social media platforms to injecting a shot of dopamine into the brain. Oddly enough, many studies also show that an increased presence on social media correlates directly with higher levels of depression — always getting a quick glimpse at other people’s best curated moments can grow to be overwhelming and the basis of constant comparison. The side effects of constant social media-specific attachment are very real.
Refresh, refresh refresh… what’s the latest? It’s a feeling people seek out constantly. The abundant access to information in the palm of our hands has almost given our generation information overload, and general fear of missing the latest. I’m not sitting on my phone reading something or scrolling through something, which means someone else is, and they are getting ahead of the game… That’s certainly how I can feel at times — like I need to know everything or else I’ll fall behind. I’ll openly admit that. Multitasking and trying to maximize every minute
Aside from that, another aspect of the general cellphone era that I find troubling is the notion of making (and sticking to) a plan being far less genuine. Back in the day (really anytime before cellphones), connecting with people was so much simpler. If a plan was made to meet someone at 3:00, and both parties stuck to it. made a plan to meet someone at 3:00, you met them at 3:00. Without a phone attached to the end of your hand, you wouldn’t leave that person stranded with a text saying “hey, I’m not going to make it because of ___ ” or “hey can we push this back an hour?”. People showed up and made a true effort to be on time.
I also love the notion of having to ask for permission to use someone’s phone to make a call. Imagine if you had to ask someone you were sitting with if you could text someone else to see what they were doing? That would really make disengaging mentally from your current environment far more difficult. Now, if you want to remove yourself mentally from a situation, all you have to do is reach into your pocket and start texting or scrolling to stimulate yourself with the next best thing going on.
So how can we break this habit?
I like to, when I can, instill a “phones down” rule at the dinner table . All phones in the middle and whoever checks theirs during the meal has to pay the whole bill. To be honest, it usually works to some extent, but it’s almost sad it’s come to that.
Other potential solutions:
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the social media game, and I love having constant access to information through my phone. I think the overall message here that we all need to take a second to step back and reflect on how often we use it, why, when and what we can do to ultimately ensure we’re not living our lives through a tiny device in our hands. As much as I want to know about the chopped salad you had for lunch, maybe it’s not worth the post (or maybe I shouldn’t be checking)…
Don’t be afraid to unplug, go for a walk and look up. Maybe you’ll learn something, maybe you’ll meet someone special, or maybe it’ll just make you more present in the current moment. My grandparents met on a chance run-in in an elevator. If not for that moment, I literally wouldn’t be here. What are the odds of something like that happening today? It wouldn’t likely becaues we’re all sitting on our phones reading through the 10,000th crypto-tweet of the day. Now go get back to it and refresh every app on your phone… I’m sure you missed a lot in these past couple minutes.
Originally published at medium.com