Detaching from my third arm


I’ve been working to live more intentionally for much of my life and the thing that seems to be holding me back the most these days is my phone.  When did carrying phones at all times become the norm?  When did I start thinking that I should have it in my pocket at all times? What the heck.

I had been thinking a lot about my relationship with my phone when an amazing podcast came into my life.  It is an interview with Sherry Turkle who is a psychologist and professor at MIT who researches technology.  Listen here:  She makes a lot of concerning observations about the role that technology plays in disconnecting us from the people around us and from ourselves.  One of the concepts that I found most disturbing was how she has found a decrease in empathy in college students over the past 20 years that she attributes to them having less real life experiences of fully listening.  She points out that even having your phone in your pocket signals to you and the people you are with that what’s happening could be interrupted and isn’t important.  She also warns that the ability to be alone with ourselves is degrading as every spare moment or lul in a conversation can be filled by “checking the feed” on our phone. She makes lots of other amazing points that I don’t need to list here.  Just listen to the podcast.  It’s amazing. Anyway.

The whole thing really scares me.  I do love technology in that it allows us to connect with other like minded people and to be exposed to ideas we might never have found otherwise but I’m unsettled by the pull that my phone has on me.  I’ve taken to keeping it in a cabinet to avoid mindlessly checking it as I walk by.  That has helped but I still find that when I do pick it up to check something I tend to spend more time going down various rabbit holes.  

I also can’t quite remember what life was like before phones became such a part of us.  I didn’t get my own cell phone until I went to college.  Texting wasn’t even a thing then.  I vaguely remember friends commenting how how it was strange that anyone could be reached at anytime.  A level of freedom had slipped away.  A big difference between use then and now is that if your phone rang if you didn’t have time to talk you could let it go to voicemail and call back later.  Now, with texting we all have “time” to quickly respond.  But using time in that way creates a disjointed experience in the present moment as well as in the texting conversation.  It requires our minds to not be fully present in either interaction.  Ugh.  How did this become the norm and how do we break this cycle?  

I recently cracked the screen on my phone and have been pondering giving it up and having an older non-smart phone activated.  Philosophically it seems right to me but I just can’t make myself do it!  It’s all too easy to justify the reasons I “need” to have a smartphone.  For me the main reason is that I already feel like so many of my choices make me an outsider in society and I’m just not sure how far I want to go. And, you know… podcasts… facebook… texting…Oh well.  I’m just going to try to keep being more aware of the effect my phone is having on me and trying to use avoid mindless usage.  We will see how it goes! I would love to hear how other like minded people are navigating this path.  Any good ways of staying plugged in to life while keeping your wireless?

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