Smartphones And The Great Disconnect
In my quest to pinpoint my various sources of anxiety, and to increase my focus and productivity, I’ve recently turned my attention to my smartphone. I’ve realized that I have a love/hate relationship with it. I spend countless moments mindlessly pulling my phone out and thumbing through apps. What’s most irritating is how habitual it is. I won’t even receive a notification and yet I find myself pulling out my phone on impulse, mainly when I lose interest in what’s going on in the environment around me. As much as it excites me to understand how profound it is for each human to possess such powerful technology, I find that owning a smartphone (at least for myself) is a micro representation of the larger notion that technology is a “double-edged sword,” basically meaning that its detriments are equal to its benefits.
Today I woke up with a dead phone, and I couldn’t seem to locate my charger easily. Usually, I’m pretty distraught about this and I’ll frantically run around the house looking for a charger. But today I didn’t care. My phone is dead, that means I don’t have to worry about compulsively checking it. This seemed like a great idea at first. Lately, I’ve grown resistant to social interaction through any means. People tend to cause me great stress, and I’m tired of being notified of the random happenings on my social networks. So I’ve eliminated a few sources of stress and anxiety, however, I’ve inadvertently revealed another source in the form of worry about people contacting me for seemingly important matters. I have unfinished business with a couple of friends I was conversing with last night. What if they wanna follow up on those plans today? Am I a bad person for ignoring them if so? I can leave my phone in my room all day so I don’t feel it in my pocket, but now I see my mind thinking of its location there. This proves to me how attached I’ve become to the convenience of a smartphone. There is an anxious disconnect from the world and a sense that I’ve given up on life without it on. This seems dramatic but I think to varying degrees it’s a common feeling for most people.
I am not against the use of smartphones. We literally have supercomputers thousands of times more powerful than mainframe computers of the 80’s and 90’s resting in our pockets. Infinite information is at our fingertips no matter where you are, assuming there are cellphone towers emitting sufficient bandwidth. The thing that worries me about smartphones is how distracting they are from the present moment. When my mind is constantly wandering towards my smartphone’s activities, I am losing focus on what matters in front of me. It’s gotten to the point where I have to turn my phone on Airplane Mode or leave it in my car so that I can properly focus when I’m at work. And that’s been extremely beneficial. Not just for work productivity, but for social interaction between coworkers and customers alike. Instead of randomly whipping out my phone when I lose interest in what someone’s saying to me, I’m forced to involve myself in the interaction and benefit from it in any way I can. Sometimes someone will end up talking about something interesting or useful to me which would’ve otherwise gone unheard had I taken out my phone and given the social cue that I was no longer interested. This is something that I notice happens frequently when I myself am trying to talk to people about something. Whether it’s my family or friends, I find it extremely hard to converse with people who are simultaneously carrying on conversations with someone through their phone. Some people are good at multitasking, but still there is a huge disconnect. I strongly advocate the use of technologies as tools, but when they become distractions from important moments in the present I begin to lose faith in humanity. It’s easy for me to be optimistic as I recognize all the incredible benefits advanced tech has on society and the promise it holds for the future, but it’s harder for me to look at the downsides. This is probably because I’m so techno-progressive and future-minded. I want humanity to take off and and answer the deepest questions of reality and explore the universe. One thing I have to remind myself though is that at the level of the individual, humans can be wrong in what they do. Minds can break and bad things can happen. We are flawed beings. And what happens at the individual level can represent what happens at the collective level. While we seem so righteous and progressive in the grand scope of things, it’s still absolutely possible for us to make mistakes. I think that if we can’t differentiate between using technology compulsively versus using them as tools, we might create a future of detrimental indifference.
If this all sounds like a personal problem, it’s because it is. I’ve never written about my thoughts on my social life, at least not on this blog site, so there’s a lot of things I’m compelled to add to this particular post which might cause it to go off track and become congested. Obviously there’s more to my sudden desire to go without a phone today, but at the same time, I think there’s a point I’m trying to make about our relationships with our communication technologies. In a future post I may delve a bit into my thoughts on my own social life, but for now, I want this current post to be a reminder to set aside our phones every now and then and savor the moment.