Unlearning Technological Addiction
By Oscar Stephens-Willis
Originally published in the November 2014 issue.
If they ever rewrite the 10 commandments and it somehow gets to go to a committee, I’m putting forward one simple suggestion.
Put down the cell phone.
Bear in mind that I’m not necessarily specifying the person in the elevator (“Can you hear me now?”) or even the guy with the Bluetooth earpiece in driving his BMW shouting
“Yo Steve, I dunno if you know this but I totally got something in my ear brah! Ya, Ya totally! Gives me more freedom to sip some brewskis, ya know?”
I’m talking about all of us.
After all, we’re all guilty of it, aren’t we?
You’re with your friends in a restaurant; you’re having a good time cracking wise when you stop to take a moment to breathe from your exhilarating conversation about fish to look around the restaurant. That’s when you see it. You realize in horror that there are at least three different tables with groups sitting on them in silence staring at their phones.
Friends! Groups of people who have come out together are now ignoring each other so that they Snapchat someone who they haven’t come out with instead.
Crikey, you think. How disgraceful.
Hold on though, Beth hasn’t said anything in a while. David didn’t go into any more detail on if he prefers cod or salmon. You take a look and what do you know, you’re all staring down at a handheld screen and avoiding human interaction. It’s the physical ‘lol’ text, instead of letting those natural pauses we feel pressured to be doing something…anything… Next time you’re in an elevator watch just how fast everyone reaches for their pockets instead of just embracing the silence.
Everyone knows that smartphones are great, that’s undeniable, I like to tweet while I’m on the toilet just as much as the next person.
Genuinely losing human interaction? Not so cool.
This isn’t just me either, I’m not making this up in order to fill copy space. No, this is legit stuff. Time Magazine did a study on how our lives are slowly becoming more and more mobile, specifically how reliant we’re getting on the small devices in our pockets.
According to Time’s poll:
– 84 percent said that they could not go a single day without their cell phones.
– 50 percent of Americans sleep with their phone next to them.
– That 50 percent contains more than 80 percent of 18-24 year olds.
– 1 in 4 people check their phone every 30 minutes.
– 1 in 5 people check their phone every 10 minutes.
Another survey by Harris Interactive found that one in five people between 18 and 34 used their smartphones during sexual intercourse.
Another slightly less formal study consisted of me walking over the street from campus to Panera (other overpriced coffee cafes are available) and counted the people in there. The results were staggering. A Wednesday morning with 23 people sitting inside, 18 of which were on their phones. Now math was never my strong suit, but I think we can all agree that is almost certainly a percentage.
There is even a genuine expression for that anxious feeling you get when you’ve left your phone by the side of your bed in the morning as you struggled to get up and do your hair. It’s called Nomophobia. As in ‘No-mo-phobia’. Look it up, it’s currently under review to see if it should be on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Symptoms of nomophobia include: panic attacks, dizziness, trembling, sweating, chest pains and an overwhelming sense that you’re overreacting and being a bit silly. Only one of those is made up.
An early indication that you could have nomophobia in your future is if you’ve got the dreaded phantom phone vibration syndrome. That’s where you thought you felt your phone vibrate, but it didn’t.
Luckily, there is a proven cure to this terrifying ailment. It’s simple enough, you text your friends, you say “I’ll meet you at the bar at 7 tonight.”
You put your phone in your pocket. You meet your friends. You talk to them.
Social media is very quickly starting to dominate our lives to a level beyond the morning commute. It’s fun, it’s informative and certainly shouldn’t be abandoned, but if being constantly connected to the rest of the world means losing connection with your own daily experiences then that’s a sacrifice that’s not quite worth making.
So, try and turn the phone off when you’re interacting in-person with your fellow humans. The world’s bigger than that screen in the palm of your hand.