For most of us, our phones are an integral part of our everyday lives. It’s one of our greatest tools for connecting with people far away but, at the same time, it’s also our most immediate way of disconnection from those whom we’re presently together with. Just think about how many times you’ve pulled up your phone to avoid eye contact, an awkward elevator conversation, or the dread of having nothing to do but sit and wait for a class to start.
Phones as our social safety net…
But why do we do it? I think by now there’s a sort of agreed-upon understanding that our phones can be a social safety net. And I don’t mean in the sense that you can use it to call your mom when you’re stressed out or to text your friend when a creepy dude is hitting on you at the bar.
What I mean by using our phones as a social safety net is using it to avoid having to be social in the current situation by instead interacting with people online. A safety that seems to signal ‘look at me, I’m social, I have people to text, Instagram posts to comment on’ whenever we pull out our phones rather than talk to the person standing next to us.
…Or rather a crutch?
I’m definitely guilty of doing this and I’m sure I’m not alone. Lately though, I’ve been trying to question myself whenever I do pull out my phone. I try to ask, ‘why am I opting for my phone rather than talking to the person next to me?’ ‘Do I have a reason for using my phone right now?’ and ‘would I be using it if I was just alone?’.
So far, my little inquisition into my own phone use has made me understand that I often use my phone for completely meaningless things that I wouldn’t be spending time on if I was just alone or not trying to avoid a social interaction (cue: checking WhatsApp group messages that I normally never interact with, double-checking my calendar, and looking at peoples’ Instagram stories).
Secondly, it’s made me look up more and check-out what the people around me are doing and — you guessed it — they’re likely on their phone as well.
It seems that our generation, rather than using our phones as a tool, use it as a crutch.
No one likes being on crutches
And just like having actual crutches can be fun the first day (elevator privileges and all that) but shortly after becomes a burden, the instant reflex of grabbing for our phone becomes a limitation after a while. Not just because it gradually takes away from our social skills, but because I think it also can bring a lot of stress and a pressure to be constantly online and available.
Personally, I question whether any of us likes the sense of having to be constantly social. I get the feeling that often, when we reach for our phones, it’s not because we’re very intentional about it but because we feel like we should be doing something.
But what would happen if we were just present in the moment? Whether that means talking to the person next to us or just acknowledging each other and the device-free silence.
I hope we would become much less anxious.
And because I don’t know enough about the link between anxiety, stress, and constantly being on our phones, I’m going to end my blog post (rant?) here.
I am wondering, though, if any of you recognize the tendencies of relying on your phone or perhaps whether you’ve also tried to be more intentional with when you garb for your phone?
Feature Image: Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash