It’s time to start controlling the frenemy in our phones

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By Julia Brooks

How many times have you checked your phone today? Can’t remember? Nether can I.

What were you doing? Were you Instagramming, Tweeting, Snapchatting, e-mailing or texting? I know that most days by 4 p.m., I have done all of the above at least once.

We love our cell phones. They allow us to keep in touch with old friends and far away family. Phones instantly connect us to whomever we please. On the other hand, phones distract us. They are poor study companions. Chances are, we have all missed out on a friend’s joke or remark because we were texting.  Phones make our connections for us. However, is there a chance that our 4G, Emojii, hashtag universe is cutting us off from real experiences?

When I hang out with friends, the only things that seem to be out are phones. Quite obviously, all of us are helplessly tempted by our technology. I recently stumbled upon an article in the New York Times that mentioned what the fashion market director at Vanity Fair Michael Karl calls the “phone stack” game. Every time friends go out to dinner, they must stack their phones in the center of the table. Whoever peeks at their phone first has to pick up the bill. In my opinion, this game should be played at every gathering. If you came to be there, be there. Having constant access to social media and texting is stretching us too thin. There is a time and a place for phones. That time and place is not when we are interacting with others.

Pulling out your phone when a friend is talking is like putting up a wall around yourself. When a friend texts instead of listening, I am suddenly stuck in limbo. I feel as if I am suddenly practicing a speech in my bedroom—unrehearsed and alone. Our real friends would never ignore us blatantly. However, phones are cutting off conversations and connections. So the question begs, what are we looking for when we unlock our phones?

Louis C.K. recently appeared on Conan and explained why he doesn’t let his children have phones: “You need to be able to build the ability to be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away—is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person”

Moreover, he comically dissects our behavior down to the very reason why we can’t seem to back away from our screens.

“Sometimes when things clear away, you’re in your car, and you start going ‘oh no here it comes, that I am alone.’ Like it starts to visit on you. You know just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad just by being in it. That’s why we text and drive. People are willing to risk a life and ruin their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second—because it’s so hard.”

Making friends can be hard. Truly listening is hard. However, the ounce of effort put forth to connect with others is ultimately worth it. Most of us subconsciously use our phones as a sort of social crutch. We dive into our beeping, dinging, vibrating little screen to avoid just an ounce of social discomfort. Checking new texts or the latest Instagrams will only stifle awkwardness. After you look up from your Twitter feed, you may feel vaguely better and sort of satisfied. However, the confidence needed to experience life is never going to come from avoidance.

Finding friendships is more important than gaining followers. Take a moment to unplug. It might feel really weird. That’s a good thing. Then, use your phone for something worthwhile. Call an old friend, text your grandpa or check up on your siblings.

So, strike up a conversation with someone. Maybe, instead of scrolling in solitude, sit quietly and think. A good network connection or 50 Instagram likes holds no value when compared to a great laugh or hug with those you love.

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