Being constantly connected to one’s phone seems like an inevitable part of living in this day and age. If you’re not constantly checking your e-mail for messages about your job or school, it may seem like the majority of individuals are updating their friends, loved ones and even complete strangers on their whereabouts, their plans for that evening or even the fact that they’re on their fifth coffee of the day.
I am currently typing this article while in a coffee shop and I am not over exaggerating when I say a young woman about my age just walked in, ordered herself a large latte, and the first thing she proceeded to do was take a photo to post on Instagram. I swear to you, she has not even taken a sip yet.
Before I delve any further into this piece, I would like to reassure the readers that I am by no means trying to offend or undermine anyone who uses social media. Instagram is one of my guiltiest pleasures. Sadly, I could sit in front of my screen for hours scrolling through photographs of funny memes, beautiful outfits, and places to travel. Not only are Instagram, VSCO, Facebook, etc. platforms that can also be very freeing in terms of expressing different stances on social, political, environmental and economic standpoints, they definitely can be a great way to express your art or just a fun way to pass the time.
More than anything, I have noticed that updating social media and being updated has become somewhat of a job. Checking the red bubble that pops up on the side of an app has become an itch that you just cannot scratch. How many times have you closed your Instagram app and opened it again three minutes later to check if a new photo has been posted or if you have received any new notifications? I am sure you have even done this unconsciously, I am more than sure I have many times.
In the New Year, a lovely little lady that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting made a Facebook status announcing that she had been off both Snapchat and Instagram for about four months. She stated that she had furthered this by deleting the Facebook app off of her phone. With this, she recognized that she became much more aware of her surroundings, was a lot less stressed, and what I found to be most compelling was that she was a lot more conscious of her own actions, and even more, was able to further embrace her own company.
As the screen of my phone had been smashed for over a year, the inevitable happened to me this past New Year’s Eve. I had been getting pretty hand-sy with a bag of chips at the party I was attending, and, forgetting that I had slipped my phone into the back of my skirt, snagged the bag off the table and let my phone fall gracefully onto the ground. In addition, as the screen went grey, I thought, what a tragedy. Boy was I wrong. The next evening I logged on to my Facebook and on my wall was the status posted by my friend. After seeing this, I decided that I too would embrace life without this hypnotizing piece of technology controlling my daily routine.
In the past two weeks, I have been without my phone. I check my e-mail about twice a day, once in the morning and one in the evening (mostly because I have been applying to jobs for the New Year and am hoping for responses). My Mac receives the iMessages that would usually be directed to my iPhone, but soon after my phone broke I realized that finding accessible WiFi was not always the easiest and carrying my laptop with me everywhere I went was extremely tiresome.
In the past two weeks, I have been able to find a significant amount of comfort in the little things that I had forgotten about with the overwhelming amount that I used my phone. From finding an extreme satisfaction in the aches and pains in my muscles after a run in the brisk winter air without the interruption of skipping a song on my playlist or answering a text message. (Self-disclosure, I do not actually run a lot so this is another reason it might have been soothing for me). The pleasure of spending three hours making myself breakfast from scratch, eating in the sun-room of my apartment with my thoughts to drown out the silence. Also having the ability to embrace that silence wholeheartedly if I really wanted to. Spending time with both my friends and family has become a lot more gratifying. As I no longer find myself informing my loved ones about every event that has happened to me during the day at every chance I get, there is a lot more to talk about with them when we get the chance to sit down and speak to each other. In my experience, these conversations mean a lot more and I am a lot more engaged in the conversation than I usually would be.
Not only has social media become normalized, as a means to cure boredom, but these apps have become platforms from which we seek validation from others around us. Instead of embracing the beauty and simplicity of our own lives, we become encapsulated by that really cool party one of our Snapchat friends attended the night before and forget that we too had an awesome night staying in with our roommates, ordering Chinese food and laughing until 3 in the morning.
In no way do I deny the impact that technology and the growth of social media can have on the world. With the ability to contact people all around the world, I believe that we really can make an impact in so many sectors of the world at the touch of a couple buttons. I also love the idea of having a camera everywhere you go. Being able to capture fleeting moments that you hold near and dear really is lovely. In theory, the idea of cellphones really are great. The ability to connect instantly with others instead of sending a carrier pigeon or sending an e-mail on Dial Up really is handy. I just believe that it becomes important to monitor the amount that we use these devices.
Therefore, if I may, I hope to challenge whoever is reading this in a couple of ways. Instead of carrying your phone around with you to take photographs, go out and buy a disposable camera. Not only do I guarantee that you will have a lot more fun taking that one photograph that may or may have not turned out perfectly instead of 30+, but also developing the film at the end tends to be extremely nostalgic. Half the time you forget what kind of photos you had taken and you get to relive those moments a lot more vividly. If you’re the type of person that reads the news on the bus on the way to work in the morning I challenge you to pay for a newspaper from your local convenience store instead of spending your money on 3G scrolling through your Twitter feed or the BBC app. Not only will your eyes hurt less from not staring at that screen, but you may just remember what you read a lot more clearly than if you read it on your iPad.