Today, was like every morning, I had to navigate a world of Zombies. Like an episode from the walking dead, the mindless morning commuters were drooling over their screens, oblivious to the beauty surrounding them. As they made their way through traffic depending on peripheral vision they mindlessly leap frogged from app to app in search of a serotonin fix.
In the last two weeks, I have seen parents peering into their palms, in the rain, while their 3 year old sat on the wet pavement transfixed by her own smartphone. I passed a homeless chap sitting over an air vent, supplying warm air from the metro; while he focused on his iPhone, too busy to beg for money.
Everyone holds their phone like a lovers hand, waiting for the next notification to prove somebody cares, enough to like their last post.
One person I spoke to believes that the phone has become a security blanket in a frightening world. We want to shut out the fear and focus on the safety of the virtual environment that captivates us.
I’m not alone in noticing this worrying trend. When Deloitte surveyed 4,150 British adults in 2017 about mobile habits, 38% said they thought they were using their smartphone too much. Among 16- to 24-year-olds, that rose to more than half. Habits such as checking apps in the hour before we go to sleep (79% of us do this, according to the study) or within 15 minutes of waking up (55%) may be taking their toll on our mental health.
“It’s not necessarily the top thing when my clients come in, but it’s often in the mix, tied in with anxiety or insomnia or relationship issues,”
says psychotherapist Hilda Burke, a spokesperson for National Unplugging Day in 2016 and 2017. “Particularly when anxiety and insomnia’s there, it’s rare that it’s not related in some way to heavy use of digital devices.”
Often, the apps themselves aren’t helping: from games to social networks, they’re precision engineered to create and feed our interaction neediness. According to British apps developer Nick Kuh: “A lot of these companies are employing behavioural psychologists to really nail that: finding ways to draw you back in. I’ve worked on apps like that myself, and it’s not something I’m proud of.”
Kuh is trying to make amends: his latest app is called Mute, and launched for iPhone this month (free). It’s one of several apps – Space and Moment are others – that track how often you unlock your phone and how much time you spend using it, in order to help you reduce your time on it.
For Space CEO Georgie Powell, “the wake-up moment for me was when I was breastfeeding my daughter while looking at photos of her on my phone. I was so distracted by my phone, I wasn’t present with her!”
Five things I realised when I lost my smartphone.
We Are Slaves To Technology
Not having a phone with me meant spending a nice time with everyone, including myself. However, while observing the people around me, I concluded that these days, people have become slaves of technology.
Most of my friends were busy messaging others, updating their Facebook statuses, uploading snaps, etc. All the while, they unintentionally ignored and neglected each other. Everyone seemed so frantic on not missing a message or a piece of news on social media that they missed whatever was going around them. It didn’t seem like they were the ones who owned the phone. Rather, their phones owned them.
Lack Of Attention
During the time I spent without my phone, I was able to dwell on the fact that technology has really messed up our levels of attention.
In fact, none of my friends was able to hold a decent conversation without checking his/her phone every five minutes. It got so bad that many of them kept refreshing their Facebook and Snapchat feeds, again and again.
It seemed to me as though we’re losing our quality of being good listeners. We get distracted far too often.
Rule: Refuse to sit with somebody who puts their phone on the table in a restaurant or bar. Everyone will have an excuse for why they need to. But respect yourself enough not to come second to a stream of bullshit.
Missing Out On The Bonding
See, we’re living in a fast-paced world. These days, everyone is busy and we have very less time to give to each other.
On the other hand, it’s our duty to give time to our friends, family and loved ones, whenever we can. That day, I witnessed the complete opposite of this. Instead of catching up, spending time with each other and making memories after so long, no one seemed bothered about any of this. This was disturbing, because, being their friend, I felt like they needed to bond.
It feels like technology has pulled everyone apart. We no longer crave for human affection or love. Rather, we seek the embrace of virtual reality. After all, these days, we’re more interested in looking at a seven-second-story on Snapchat, rather than listening to the story of a fellow person.
Rule: Acknowledge that your phone is interfering with the important moments in Life. Learn to have a healthy hateful of your phone. Once you see the world and what it has become, you will feel like Rowdy Ronny Piper in They Live.
Creating Virtual Memories Instead Of Real Ones
These days, during outings, meet-ups, lunches, dinners, or even breakfasts, most of the time is normally spent in clicking photos or selfies. I don’t see the point of this. Basically, you’re trying to ‘save’ memories (of an event you may not have fully participated in) – but what about your own memories? It’s like going to a live concert, recording it with a video camera without actually enjoying it – and then feeling good about it.
I don’t see the point in clicking photos of food, selfies (captioned as ‘All Time Best’) and a trillion snapshots, when you yourself are clearly not participating enough. Therefore, we should focus more on making real memories, rather than clicking and saving them on phones.
Rule: Stop trying to share your perfect life with other, and feeling miserable when all you see is the instalife of others and their virtual dream world. Off course everyone will seem to be having a moveable feast, cause they are only share the world they want to project. Don’t worry they are probably as miserable as you.
Take A Break From Your Phones
The most vital thing I learnt from that experience is not to miss out on the beautiful things happening around me. We need to take a break from our phones and give time to our own self and our loved ones.
Start living in the moment. Eat food without clicking it, dance without snapping it, visit places without ‘checking in’ with Facebook and hold conversations without texting anyone else. Live in the present and make beautiful memories. Observe your surroundings, observe people, observe the sky, the trees, the birds, the dogs and everything you like.
Just have the patience and will stop getting distracted by technology – and start living!