I read recently that the computing power in a smartphone eclipses that of the Apollo 11. It’s completely mind-blowing to think that Neil Armstrong and Co. were essentially catapulted to the moon in a dingy boat when compared to what we walk around with in our pockets in the 21st century.
It’s hard to avoid smartphones these days and honestly, why would we – they are an incredibly handy device designed to help us in today’s fast paced world. It’s just a pity that we’ve allowed them to invade our lives the way they have, turning us into zombies unable to function unless we’re connected to our tech.
Every now and then I like to remind myself that I don’t have to rely on anyone but “yours truly” to do something and so I head off somewhere on my own. Despite being in really crowded places like a movie theatre or coffee shop, it’s not hard to see that those who are with other people aren’t actually with them. Everyone is leaning forward with necks craned and eyes glued to an incandescent screen in their palm.
The answer to the question I get asked about my solo excursions is “no, I’m not embarrassed to go out by myself. I might be alone, but quite frankly whether they realise it or not, so is everybody else”.
I can’t come to the phone right now…
A couple of years ago my smartphone use got to the stage where it was controlling me rather than the other way around. I realised I had to start focusing on more important things and applied some minimalist principles to simplify my relationship with my tech. Within 24 hours of making the decision I had closed all my social media accounts and removed all apps off my phone.
Although I’m back on various platforms (blogging requires some semblance of social media presence), I’ve taken steps to ensure I don’t slide back into bad habits. I’ve started treating my smartphone in the manner it should be – as a tool to be used only occasionally.
While I do have a handful of apps that add actual value to my life installed, social media of any kind no longer features on my device. I check my notifications on these platforms once a day (sometimes even less) by logging onto the applicable website from on my laptop – a real pain in the arse, which keeps me focused and deliberate in my use of these services. When I’m at home my phone is placed on the bookshelf, far out of reach of any of the places I usually sit – I didn’t notice how intrusive and disruptive the device was until I had to get up off the sofa each time I felt the urge to check it.
Disconnect to reconnect
This was all the first step in an ongoing effort to disconnect from technology and reconnect with the real world. It has come with several fantastic benefits.
I am more present when spending time with people or attending events because I’m no longer concerned about trying to post everything to my news feed. I’ve been freed from the shackles of “FOMO”, no longer stressed and overly busy trying to keep up with people who can’t even remember my birthday without an algorithm-generated prompt. I now limit my use of abbreviated text and emojis, preferring to use the “spoken word” to communicate. I once again make eye contact when talking to someone and actually listen to them when they speak back. My memory has improved, I can concentrate for longer than I used to and I’m more aware of my surroundings. All the time I used to spend mindlessly scrolling on my device has been reallocated to blogging, beer brewing, cooking, meditating, listening to music and a list of other much more enriching and worthwhile endeavours.
The battle is won, but not yet the war
Used correctly, this amazing technology puts the world at our fingertips. It is our job, however, to resist the urge to let it become our world. I’m fairly certain that one day when I look back on my life, I won’t say “I wish I had spend more time on my smartphone”. I try to remind myself of this every time I reach for it.
My personal battle to keep myself from being sucked back into the world of non-stop message alerts and endless news feeds is ongoing. Just because Neil Armstrong managed without one, doesn’t mean I should because ultimately we are living in the digital age and need to be connected to the matrix in some way or another. The trick is to find the balance between the cyber world and the real one.
I have managed, for the most part at least, to find that balance and it’s been exceptionally liberating. I highly recommend waking up from the Digital Coma.