Parents, have you ever had your child begging for your attention? Screaming and borderline crying because you’re completely engrossed in some new trend on twitter and just cannot turn away. Finally, after your kid has screamed “Daddy” about fourteen times, you yell back “WHAT!?!” like it’s their fault for bothering you. As if your child has been pestering you for no real reason at all and that incredibly important Instagram post will be forever lost in the infamy of interspace. Well, I have. I’ve yelled at my son to “give me a minute would you?” multiple times because of Whatsapp conversations that needed answering. He’s a boy of 4 years, and clearly does not understand the social media world we live in. Nor should he. He should be worried about soccer practice, building snowmen and trips to grandma and grandpas.
There are days I find myself getting anxious that I have yet to check my phone for an email from someone, or what new books are recommended on Amazon. I tend to leave my phone on silent, and even so I must check it multiple times in the span of an hour. I continuously trick myself into feeling it vibrate in my pocket when I’m not even receiving any messages at all. I believe I am completely addicted to my phone. I know it for a fact, yet I still can’t put it down. As I write this article my son sits at his drum kit playing around and my phone sits right next to me within arms reach. Are we really that infatuated with ourselves that we must see who is looking and liking our latest Facebook banter? I think the issue is beyond likes or retweets.
Nowadays, it is basically common knowledge that algorithms have a lot to do with the success of social media monsters like Google and Facebook. We as a modern society are told what to do and what we like on a daily basis in a specific and targeted ad campaign. Take for instance the “deal” my wife got on a new car seat for our youngest son. He is turning 5 months old and will soon be needing a transition from his infant car seat to a more toddler sized one. Well, she was just surfing around Facebook like we all do when suddenly an advertisement popped up. It was an ad for Toys R Us. There just so happens to be a sale on that exact car seat we bought our oldest a few years back. As a matter of fact, it happens to be $100 off. Of course we bought it and of course we were happy with the deal. We were also left with a sense of violation. Facebook knows where we’ve been and how many children we have and where we frequent when we shop.
Now, it’s our fault (so to speak) for posting so many pictures of our kids and leaving our location services on. Regardless, one doesn’t think about those repercussions as much as we should. Here is another for instance. Today (1/13/2018) there was a false alarm in the state of Hawaii. Multiple people were posting screenshots of their phones with a warning saying (and I quote) “Emergency Alert: Ballistic Missile Threat Inbound to Hawaii. Seek Immediate Shelter. This is not a drill” Now, that is a terrifying warning and if I were located in Hawaii, I would be thankful a warning was even sent. Luckily it was not an attack on America and I did not have to continue reading about the start of World War 3. However, it feels to me that anyone with a cell phone in Hawaii was warned about this oncoming threat. Clearly it is a positive to warn a general populous to take shelter when needed. I just can’t shake the fact that the government knows where we all are located at any time. As long as our cell phones remain on our person.
Saving money and saving lives (potentially), how can that be bad right? We do know for a fact that there are groups of individuals working day and night, coding new algorithms to keep our eyes glued on our smart phone screens. Believe me, I’m not here to preach to everyone to put their phones away forever and take up cross country skiing instead. As a writer trying to break into the comic book community, I utilize Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for it’s incredible networking capabilities. These platforms have been monumental in helping me contact people ingrained in the industry, allowing for communication that I found greatly helpful. The ability to come across Facebook events about government grants or graphic novel groups around town have been extremely beneficial.
There are pros and cons to everything. I’m just hashing it out in my mind and through my writing. Does the good outweigh the bad? Since I started reaching out to people and looking into producing my own comics, I’m constantly refreshing my Gmail account and checking my Facebook messenger for further correspondence from multiple sources. I alienate my wife and children at times where I completely zone out into applications for comic conventions and what is new and exciting on the social media front. I’ve been told “You’re not here today” on multiple occasions. My cell phone has a strong grip on me and I find it might interfere with my relationship with my family. It truly is a double edged sword for me. Having social media and all it’s networking capabilities in my pocket has been a massive advantage for me. Not being able to pull myself away from my phone to play legos with my son has become a huge flaw in my fatherly character.
The blinking blue light can feel like a spotlight hitting me right in the face. Or a small fire burning in my pocket. My attention can be drawn to it without much thought. For a mental recess from my online addiction, I’ve taken to daily meditation and journaling. Books have become a major adversary in my arsenal against my cell phone obsession. Nothing can truly grab my attention like a great book or graphic novel and completely take me away to another world or universe. Reading has become a great escape that continues to build my mind and vocabulary. Perhaps the next step is intermittent breaks from my cell phone. Sunday’s could be a day where I go completely offline and enjoy family visits and a movie with my kids.
If you struggle with the inability to put your phone down and unplug from the system, I get it. I’m dealing with it as well. Like I said previously, my 4 year old son can see it. Perhaps the future will hold a physical revolution where we put our phones down and begin talking face to face again. More family game nights and less Clash of Clan all nighters. Frequent trips to the library and less Youtube videos. I hope I’m not the only one who has seen a large increase in public talks with the likes of Sam Harris and Tim Ferriss. People getting together and actually talking about subjects that really matter to the betterment of mankind.
I am completely aware the my addiction to my phone is quite worrisome. Knowing that, I’m prepared to do something about it. Getting outside, visiting museums, art galleries and meeting up with people for coffees. Interactions with actual human beings is so important and I think we all need a strong movement towards being together as a group. Accomplishing something good like writing a book or putting on an exhibition. We all need each other, or else how bleak a world would it be if it was just yourself and your pocket computer. Stand back and view the valley for what it is. Social media is not tangible. Humans are. We need more interaction. Now put your phone down and grab a book!