Springingtiger's Blog

Mobile Remix

As some people will be aware, this year I have cut back on the time I spend on my phone following social media. I try to limit myself (usually unsuccessfully) to a period in the morning after my journalling and again in the evening during my journalling time. Outside those times I restrict myself to times when it is appropriate, like sitting in waiting rooms. The actual amount of time I spend on my phone has been cut by at least two hours a day, I still waste too much time on it.

The first thing I have noticed since cutting back on my social media use is how much more reading I can get through in a day. I also find I have more time to write and — less happily — get things done in the house like cooking. I hadn’t realised how much time I spent looking at my phone, probably because it was in small packages of ten minutes here, thirty minutes there. Even an hour can pass quickly when following threads and links.

The problem with putting my phone away is that sometimes I feel completely alone even in a crowd of people. I accept that those who know me may not be surprised by that. However now it is nothing to do with me, but a realisation that no one is paying attention to anyone else because they are too engrossed in their phones. Glasgow has some beautiful buildings that some people will never notice unless a picture is posted to Facebook, because they won’t look up and see for themselves. Street entertainers perform ignored by the phone users of Buchanan Street. Couples sit in restaurants rarely raising their eyes to each other in case they miss a Facebook update. People may be communicating, but they aren’t talking.

I am admittedly one of the world’s most reluctant conversationalists largely because I find conversation tiring and tiresome. However I have recently enjoyed meals where no one was absorbed in their phones, but chose instead to look at each other and talk. I also chose to telephone a relative who has considerable difficulty speaking. We send the occasional email, however I decided to put aside convenience and speak with him. I confess to not particularly liking telephones, but emails can never replace the contact that comes when two people hear each other.

On Wednesday I listened to the Landmark Forum Leader —  David Cunningham — saying, “If people have no voice they don’t exist.” which sounds terrible out of context. The point he was making is that when we refuse to hear, to truly listen to another’s communication, we cease to honour them as a human being, they cease to matter to us and they know it. Interestingly enough in the exercise where we explored this, a number of participants took out their mobile phones and used them as a tool to avoid paying attention to their partner’s communication.

When I was young in a world without mobile phones or personal computers the world was a colourful and exciting place. Even so I would not want to return to those comparatively gadget free times. I think the ‘interweb thingy’ as one presenter calls it is valuable, social media enables me to remain in touch with family all around the world and catch the news as it breaks (does that really matter?). I just think it is sad when we allow our toys to prevent us appreciating where we are and who we are with. Perhaps they may have nothing to say, but we won’t know that unless we listen. As I said in an earlier draft, if we don’t pay attention to the people with us now we may log out of Facebook and find they’ve gone.


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