Phones. Social Media. Is it helping our generation to connect more closely or is it leaving us addicted to scrolling through meaningless feeds, swiping away our creativity like dirt on a bathroom floor? Is the social network really social or is it cutting our will to produce and to use our brain effectively?
Consumed by screens
Nowadays, we spend a lot of our times in front of screens. Television, Netflix, the Computer at work, the laptop at home – and last but not least the phone. We are so used to using our phone that we might not even realize now often we pull it out and scroll through social media in a day.
Lately, I´ve noticed that I was using Instagram and Facebook way more than I consider healthy for myself. Some evenings just went by like this: Nothing special happening on the social network, but yet not boring enough to put down your phone . You´re just laying in bed spending hours and hours, not even realizing how quickly time might pass by. Soon, the night has come without you having done much more than scrolling through news feeds.
In the metro
Just imagine this scenario: You´re in the metro, standing. Everyone around you is looking down on their phones, doing everything to avoid dangerous eye-to-eye-contact with strangers. Once entering the metro they´re quick to pull out their phones, starting to answer to Whatsapp messages, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. Most of use surely aready forgot how it was riding the metro without a phone. At least that´s what it seems like. Seeing people glued to their screens my grandma always shakes her head and tells me one of her famous “When I was young, everything was better, people still talked to each other in the metro!” stories. And in this case, I have to say she´s right. Today this is a very distant, almost surreal seeming past.
This doesn´t only happen in the metro, of course. It´s everywhere. But I do like the metro example as you can easily test it out yourself. Next time you´re in the metro do a little experiment. Keep your phone in your pockets and just watch. You will rarely see anyone who´s not starring at his phone. Even the older generations have come to love smartphones now. People from all ages completely glued to their screen, not noticing anything around them. Just take a close look next time and ask yourself if you´re not doing the same.
Normal cell phone addiction?
This action of pulling out our phones all the time might seem so normal to us, but if we closely examine our behavior, it shouldn´t be. We keep our eyes focused on our screens when we feel uncomfortable, when we avoid looking a person in the eyes or just don´t know what to do. It´s an easy distraction. And we know our phones. They are something we are accustomed to, something we feel comfortable with. We´d rather feel comfortable all the time with this little thing in our hands than to engage in a new, unknown situation like talking to a stranger.
Screens follow us every dain our life. I There´s no life more without them anymore. If you´re a student you are most likely doing all or most of your work on a computer. It´s practical, it´s convenient. If you are working in an office, you have your 8 standard hours in front of a screen as well. Counting all these hours we have to be in front of our screens and adding the ones we are just wasting on our phones doing nothing this adds up ton an enormous amount of time. Time we could spend otherwise. Better. Healthier.
“Influencers” and “the good life”
When we come home from university or our jobs, the first thing we do is probably opening Netflix or watching TV. Or just laying in bed, checking what´s new on Facebook or Instagram. Seeing “influencers” living “the good life”. Becoming jealous and feeling trapped at home while seeing others at the beach in Hawaii. Watching others “living the good life” makes us unhappy and leaves us provenly less satisfied with our own lives which seem boring and ordinary compared to others. If you´re always reminded that you are not travelling to the Caribbean right now, that other people have so much more money, cars, houses or whatever it might be – then it´s easy to forget that the most important things in life aren´t things. But moments. Shared, precious moments with people dear and special to you. That´s really what makes our lives happy and more special than anything materialistic ever could.
However, living in a society like ours that sadly mostly values the outside and showing off what you have, this might be easily forgotten as you are constantly reminded of what amazing life the others live. I have to say, I´m way happier when I just forget my phone for a while. It#s the easiest when I´m travelling as there are so many new things to see you don´t even have time to look at your phone in between. So many new experiences, so many new people to meet. That´s the time you completely forget your phone and just live. That´s the time you will always remember – not the one laying in your bed and scrolling through Facebook feeds.
Getting caught up in your phone
I sometimes have the feeling of being too consumed by my phone. This little thing, as amazing and convenient as it might be can also easily become a curse. I am depending on it to stay in contact with my family and friends as I am living abroad. If I don´t want to lose contact with the people I love, I need my phone, of course. Therefor I also really appreciat it. Otherwise, my life would be a lot harder. I can only imagine writing letters to every single friend or to my family every week.
However, sometimes I feel like using my phone as an excuse to do nothing – or to delay tasks I don´t like to do. It´s like “Ah, no let´s just stay on Instagram a bit longer to avoid starting to work.” “Let´s see if there´s more interesting stuff on Facebook before starting to study. Just 5 minutes”. The problem is that these 5 minutes never stay 5 minutes. 5 minutes become 10, become 20, become an hour and I didn´t even start yet.
Breaking free from your phone
So, when I travelled through a few cities in Spain recently and finally got away from my phone a bit, I felt really good. It felt amazing not even looking at Instagram or Facebook for a few days. Granted, as I am also working on social media this is especially hard for me, but this little break just made me so happy. I didn´t even have the urge to look what´s new I was too busy getting to know other people, other places. This was a very welcome break which kept me focused on the real world and not the one behind a screen. When I travel I mostly just use my phone to find my way on google maps, not more. For that, this little thing is quite practical as well.
Once I came home and had a little moment of quietness, I didn´t feel the urge to rush to my phone and jump onto Instagram. When I did however, I was soon to close it afterwards thinking “Nah, that´s not how I want to spend my time today.” I just needed a little break. It´s easy to get caught up in a routine. I guess most people are used to look at their phones first thing after they wake up. After all, it´s mostly the alarm that wakes you and the alarm is on your phone. Once you see all the new messages your phone has been floated with during the nights, it´s easy to stay on there and not to properly wake up taking time for yourself.
Eliminating phones in the morning
That´s why I recently started to switch my phone to airplane mode during the night. That way, I wake up without seeing any notifications or messages and can start my day more calmly. I usually wake up by my alarm as well, but it feels so good to just turn it off and then going on with my routine. I usually meditate in the morning, a bit after I wake up. Which also helps you to focus more, to stay connected to the real world. To stay connected to yourself, your body, your soul. I have a whole other blog post about meditation here. The act of meditation helps you to realize this behavior of addiction as well. Because in the end, that´s what it is. An addiction. We don´t even realize it, but I´m sure if you´re completely honest with yourself, nearly nobody can say they are not a tiny little bit addicted to their phones. We might not like to hear or admit it, but we are. And we should be alarmed about it. If we use our phones wisely, they serve us well. If we don´t, we become screen absorbed zombies, killing our brain cells with meaningless videos on Facebook.
For me, travelling always helps to break free from my phone, as does meditation. These are the two things that probably are the most useful. Thinking closely about your own behavior. In the end, you are responsible for your actions. And I´ve realized I don´t want to be consumed by my phone that much anymore. So I took some action. It might not be that easy, breakinig a long known habit never is. But you will feel much better afterwards.