It’s now 2021, we don’t have flying cars yet crowding the sky’s, but we do have something arguably just as powerful, magic rectangles. These devices allow us access to a virtually unlimited wealth of information in the internet and mobile device based applications. Because of their incredible power, we carry these magic devices in our pockets and are glued to them through out our day, participating in acts such as looking up random things, communicating with friends on social media and replying to message after message in an unconscious manner. We are so attached, there is almost a feeling that something is missing when we don’t have these devices on us or if we go an extended period of time without them.
We have become so glued to these magic devices that it seems we have lost a sense of touch with the natural world and what is truly important in life. In many ways, our phones have become replacements for the richness that is to be had outside of your pocket rectangle. Why explore in the real world when you can get quick fix spikes in dopamine from your phone? Along with this feeling of false experience through swiping and tapping on photos, and trying to live life through a shiny object, these rectangles also rob you of two of the most important items you have while here on earth; your time and focus.
The average American’s screen time per day is roughly around5 hours. Let that sink in, 5 hours per day you spend looking at that glowing rectangular screen. That is over 1/5 of your entire day and nearly 1/3 of your time awake. Some homework for you is to multiply this by daily number by 365and then divide it by weeks and see the number you get. If you really want a shocker, multiply the years you have had a phone, you will be amazed at how much time gets thrown into your device usage. Have a seat first, then try it.
All that been said, when was the last time you looked at your personal screen time use? Then how much of that time was spent on something valuable? A few examples of something that could be considered of value may be research for a project, reading a well written research paper on subject matter you are interested in, material on betterment or spiritual fulfillment or anything that may help you become a better human being. One can venture to guess, probably not a lot.
Most people spend their time on apps doing mindless activities, viewing photo after photo and video after video of irreverent and/or irrelevant material if not for anything more just to pass the time. Some of this content may make you laugh or entertain you and hold your attention for a few moments, but what is it really doing, and where do we draw the line in how much we consume?
Now, back to one of the original factors discussed earlier in which we’ll call false experience, which can be described as trying to achieve the feeling or sensation of the real thing with a false substitute. This has to do with the idea and act of replacing human to human contact and real-life experience with digital ones.
We can chat with family friends and people from across the globe and look at everyone’s photos on social media believing their doctored lives must be better than yours, and in turn trying to build basically a “false life” or false experience to keep up with the internet Jones. I am of the opinion that this may also be one of the factors is why we have such mental health problems today, especially among young people (and there is evidence and research that backs this up). It seems we are lacking more human to human connection by trying to replace it through text messages, hollow digital conversations and manufactured experiences.
As far as human contact is concerned, no amount of digital type, haha’s, lol’’s and thumbs up icons will ever replace the power of in person human contact, nor will any video chats for that matter. The reason why is because the largest chunk of human communication is in the non-verbal’s; our body language, our voice tonality, and the tiny expressions within our face (fun fact: An anthropologist by the name of Paul Ekman found that our faces makeover 6,000 different expressions, and that no matter the language or culture, these expressions are universally understood).
Along with this, when we are physically in the presence of another human, you can feel the energy and the vibe they bring into the room. I am willing to bet you know someone who gives you a feeling of elation from when they enter the room, the weight of the room changes. Conversely, there are people who bring the room down when they enter, almost as though their thinking and attitude leaches out into the air within the space, pulling the mood and positive rhythm of the room down.
In both cases, being in the physical presence of another human being provides us with a more rich, authentic experience and also strengthens human relationships. None of this can be achieved through any form of digital messages, not social media, not email, or sending your friend a unicorn emoji. It doesn’t even come close.
These are the important aspects of communication we miss when we communicate mostly via messaging or in any digital manner. We are robbed of our natural way of communicating which we have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years. If you think in the grand scheme of life, this level of technology as a form of common communication has only been around for around 30-40 years and ballooned in the last 10 years or so. Counter that with200,000+ years of face-to-face communication with visual cues, gestures and body language.
Our wiring and primitive animal brains have yet to catch up to these massive shifts in technology. It can be argued that this is why we are facing these growing problems in society such problems as anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. We are attempting to substitute our natural, hard-wired communication methods with something that is essentially a paper brick. It attempts to mimic and replace the real thing, but it never will truly work or be structurally sound.
So, what are we to do though? These devices have become so intertwined with our lives that it is hard to break away. Our financial institutions can be accessed through our phones, we can order food, we can call for a ride, the access to resources and the ease it provides us is addicting and tough to let go of.
So where do you find an answer or balance to this dilemma?It seems the only way out of this is to develop a healthy DETACHMENT from your phone. Realizing it is not your life, it doesn’t hold your life, and that more life is lived outside your magic rectangle and this is where you should be.
“Don’t be fooled by the internet, its cool to get on the computer but don’t let the computer get on you. Its cool to Use the computer but don’t let the computer use you. There is a war going on in the battlefields of the mind and the prize is the soul…so, just be careful”
Prince circa 1999
Still highly relatable and relevant 20 years later
We must come to the conclusion that these devices are AtBEST a powerful tool to be used with caution and delegation. They should be viewed as an aid to certain aspects of our lives, there are not in and of themselves “our lives” as some people tend to believe. Believe me, you can live without your phone, your grandparents did, and they did just fine.
Your phone is just that, a phone, it is not your life, and people should not have unlimited access to you 24/7. It is unhealthy. To combat this, limit your response and phone check times to a certain point in the days.I try to keep my time between 10-11am and then after 6pm I am a bit more liberal, but I do time block with my phone as much as possible.
Another good tip is to keep your phone out of arms reach in your workspace and possibly for the majority of the day (especially if you are highly addicted). If you keep your phone constantly on or near you and you cannot control yourself, you are just asking for distraction and trouble, and I am sure many people share this problem. Keep the phone away and limit your response times to certain times blocks in your day.
That picture of the couple on the beach smiling in the sunset may have gotten stung by jellyfish and got into a huge fight afterwards.That photo of the virtue signaler showing off how much they give back might have skeletons stacked to the ceiling in their closet. And the influencer posting glamour or money photos in every post, may have debt up to their eyeballs or are incredibly unhappy when the camera shutter isn’t snapping.
The thing to take away is that many of the things we see or absorb on the internet these days are on the whole, not good for us. They are not necessarily stimulated for the mind. That said, there is a lot of great stuff out there that I would advocate soaking up, but even then, you need to draw a line in the sand of just absorbing and consuming content and stuff.
Where is that side project you have been putting off? What about that trip you wanted to take but haven’t? Maybe you wanted to meet someone or take a new class, or any experience you have been putting off.Strive to be a creator more than a consumer, at the very least, find a healthy balance.
When you create, the experience is longer lasting. You do not get a quick hit of dopamine like how simple sugars give you a quick blood sugar spike. Instead, creating something or doing something rich in experience provides a much longer, drawn out feeling of joy. You feel this after a day spent with a great friend, after completing a project, or when you participate in a new activity or experience.
As it is not a quick jab of hollow happiness, the joy of a true experience in these forms lingers with you much longer, and you can feel it. It is like warming the soul, and that it is.
I could go on and on about this subject matter (and I will in the future) as I believe it is subject matter than is important to understand and implement in your life. If you leave with one thing from this article, leave with this; YOUR MAGIC RECTANGLE IS NOT YOUR LIFE. And treating it, and everything you do on it as such is robbing you greatly, understand this.
So, put your phone in airplane mode, in a drawer, or even better maybe whip it into the woods and go out and do something. It looks like these rectangles and the bullshit they can access are here to stay, so at the end of the day they will always be here. But when you go out and live and finally come back, you may see they aren’t as magic as you thought. Go Get It.