Whenever I go anywhere, I see people with their heads down, on their phones. People are playing Candy Crush, browsing through dating apps, and “Yelping” the best spot for dinner. We’re so addled by our second lives on our iPhone screens. I think most people recognize that it’s a distraction, but because it’s so second-nature, we’ve become complacent.
People nowadays will mock you for being hesitant of technology. Especially in my millennial demographic, it’s “uncool” to “unplug.” If you’re sitting with a group of friends at dinner and everyone has their phones out, comparing Instagrams or whatever it is, you feel awkward without a phone. You awkwardly gaze at everyone, trying to keep up conversation but everyone keeps going back to their phones. What did people do for fun 15 years ago? We are addicted to technology and this takes us from experiencing our world is scary.
While I worry about the trajectory of social relationships for people in my age group as authentic interaction gets replaced by technology, I try to remind myself that beauty still exists in the world for myself and for whoever dares to embrace it.
My favorite thing to do is to go somewhere – anywhere – without my phone.
This doesn’t sound very revolutionary but for a lot of people this is unthinkable. How will they get to their destination without a map? What about listening to music? What about beating high scores on their game? What if there’s something they need to photograph and post immediately? Or tweet?
We have to be able to let go of all of these preoccupations. Why are we controlled by these impulses? For just a few hours, turn off your phone and go to the library, go to your favorite park, go downtown – and just experience it for what life is. Observe people as they walk by. Be conscious of sound – what are people talking about? Do you hear animals? Do you hear machines, too? There are so many noises that go into our experience that we don’t notice when we have ear buds in. Breathe deeply – what odors define these places? With every inhale, remind yourself of your purpose. It’s an awesome way to stay grounded and remind yourself that there’s no need to be on your phone all the time. Lastly – look around, observe everything in your path. Let yourself get lost instead of obediently following Google maps. You can always ask someone for directions (yes, a real person).
My favorite exercise is to jot down what I observe on these strolls. I always notice that I have more to reflect on when I have a phone-free day compared to days when I’m obsessively on my phone. What is there to take note of, “Lots of things happened on the Internet today!” compared to “Met gracious strangers, played with two dogs, helped a neighbor with their barbecue.” Let’s stop caring about the second lives on our screens and remember our real lives in the the very tangible world..start by taking a walk.