PSA: Get Off Your Phone
Just for the record, this isn’t one of those “oh no, Millennials are doomed to a life of idiocy and dysfunction because technology is ruining the world and breaking families apart” kind of things. On the contrary, technology has changed the world for the better in so many ways and has allowed us to do things that simply weren’t possible not so long ago. It’s become a particularly invaluable tool for travelers and it’s hard to imagine unplugging entirely. It’s the great equalizer, giving us all the tools to innovate and achieve. I do think, however, that our generation has reached a point of over-saturation and we’ve naturally begun to look for ways to balance the benefits with the not-so-rosy aspects of high exposure to the virtual world—disassociation with the reality around us, lack of consciousness and purposeful action, and constantly being at the whims of the brands providing the advertising dollars that fund the platforms we can’t live without. It’s time to let technology work for you, not the other way around.
The last year has been a period of self-reflection for me. I graduated from college, fully moved away from the city I had considered a home-base for the last five years, and became a full-time traveler. It’s been a time of constant change for us and one of the many things I’ve taken a closer look at is my reliance on my phone as a key tool for socialization. Not only do we as a generation maintain most of our relationships via the internet, but we use our phones as a way to escape from seemingly uncomfortable situations in real life. In doing so, I’ve often missed out on the nuances that make life great. A prime example: even after moving to the other side of the globe I found myself scrolling through Instagram and watching snaps that made me jealous of my friends back home. The fact that I had gone through so much effort to get myself where I had and yet somehow still couldn’t get passed the FOMO I felt for experiences I had definitely had before seemed a bit ridiculous. And yet I know I’m not the only one who’s felt like this.
Social media in particular has a way of making one envy the lives of others constantly, regardless of what may be happening in one’s own life. We spend our lives in a bubble of dramatized faux glamor where everyone’s trying to make what they’re doing look ten times better than it actually is. I mean we literally have the phrase, “Do it for the Instagram.” This is no way to live. The experiences we have in life should exist because they make us happy and enrich our lives, not because none of our friends have been there and taken the pic yet. It may sound dramatic, but think about how many times you spent an entire concert snapping. If you haven’t, you know someone who has. My ideal scenario lies in finding a balanced method of both utilizing technology to make my life better while refraining from getting too sucked in. Releasing yourself from your phone’s tight grasp, or the other way around, is a way of taking back control and finding inner contentment. It may seem scary to miss out on that beautiful Insta from your friend’s trip to Hawaii, but then again does it really matter? Here are some of the ways I’ve begun to lessen my reliance.
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” - Steve Furtnick
Be conscious of how often you pick up your phone.
The average American checked his phone 46 times per day in 2015. I’ve noticed that most of the time I pick up my phone it’s out of habit and there’s nothing I was actually setting out to accomplish. It’s behavior I’ve experienced going back as long as I’ve had a phone, when I was consistently aware of everything on my Facebook Newsfeed at any given time. To begin to reduce your reliance, start by becoming aware of the actual issue. Eventually you’ll start picking up your phone and setting it right back down when you realize you don’t need it. The first step in the journey to spend less time on your phone.
Take your photos, then put it away.
I think we can all agree that people who are constantly taking photos are incredibly annoying. Especially when they don’t turn the flash off. The memories are great, but when you have your phone in front of your face you miss out on the actual experience behind the lens. The worst part is that you’ll probably never look at the most of the photos you’ve taken anyway. Try limiting yourself to the first five minutes at a place for all your photo-taking. Once it’s all out of your system, sit back and enjoy what you’re doing. It makes a big difference.
Take a look through your phone every so often and delete apps you don’t use. I’ve found that I keep things on there—especially games—that I have either never used at all, or haven’t opened in years. It’s more symbolic than anything, but when you minimize your life in any aspect, it can have a big effect. If there’s less on your phone to look through, you’ll have less of a reason to pick it up.
Minimize your social media use.
Most of us spend our time browsing through social media, but I’ve found this actually has a negative effect on my life and personal happiness. Social media takes you out of the present. I tend to leave any session on Instagram or Facebook either feeling less content with my own life, or just annoyed by something I’ve seen. Why put yourself through that? There are just too many platforms—too many people and things to keep up with. I started by deleting my Facebook app years ago because I couldn't stop myself from opening it before I even thought about it. It’s back on my phone now, but gets opened maybe once a week, if that. It’s not about what works for me though, it’s what works for your own life. If Facebook makes you happy, then use it. But draw the line when you reach a point where something in your digital life is preventing you from achieving in your real life.
Learn to experience uncomfortable situations.
The next time you find yourself in an awkward position or trapped in a conversation with someone where time seemingly stands still, try dealing with it instead of retreating into your phone. I often use my phone as a social crutch and block out anything I don’t want to be a part of, but that’s just a bizarre way to avoid your problems. Reducing your dependence on your phone will actually strengthen your social skills because you have to deal with things you’d typically avoid. Try it sometime.
The key to all of this is to do what works for you. Technology is here to stay and there’s no reason we can’t learn to use it to enhance our lives without causing harm. If there’s something that you value and gain happiness from, do it. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. One of the biggest takeaways I’ve gained over the last year is that we travel to meet new people, not live for those we already know. Maintain your relationships and be there for those from home who truly matter, but wake up and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Friendship doesn’t mean sending snaps of every waking moment. You can live your life and enjoy what you’re doing without letting the whole world know.