As a person who suffers from OCD I find distractions comforting. I use them to help me stop obsessing about things. I use them to help prevent the overwhelming sense of guilt and the daily barrage of dread. I have learned to use distractions in my daily life just to get by.
But last year my smart phone broke. I wanted to get it fixed but the part was pricey and so I decided to wait and use the money for more family oriented things. And I found out something quite amazing.
I don't miss my smart phone. I have realized that although I need distractions to cope, my smart phone had become more than just a distraction. It had become a way of life and it wasn't good. Now, I am all for making social media easier and I understand people needing smart phones for work and long distance family situations. But me? I am just a blogger and house wife. What do I need a smart phone constantly attached to my hip for?
Yesterday I took a long walk with my oldest kid. Being diabetic means I need to take better care of myself and I thought it would be a great way to spend time together. As we walked we had long conversations and as I spent time really listening to my son, I was struck by how if I had had my smart phone with me, I would only be half listening. In fact I look back in the last few years that I had my smart phone attached at my hip and I don't remember any conversations I had with loved ones. I don't really recall things we did together and I truly believe that it was because I was only half participating in those things. Because another part of me was on the phone checking e-mails and apps. How sad is that? I was always half listening, half participating, and half assing time with my loved ones. What message did that send to my husband, my kids? I am sorry but I just can't pay attention to you right now, mommy needs to see if she has any new notifications? That has to be stellar for their sense of self worth.
Now that I am unconnected with the internet everywhere I go, I notice how others aren't. I see teenagers walking down the street texting and not looking where they are going. Parents texting at the park while their kids are vying for their attention. Spring flowers being ignored and walked on because something on the screen seems so much more important than noting the beauty life has renewed. No one bothers to actually stop and smell the roses anymore. Unless they are digital roses that sparkle. I even saw the trash man the other day standing up in the back of his truck texting on his phone while being bumped around in the back from not holding onto anything but his smart phone. Apparently safety isn't as important as messaging.
It just seems odd to me, the amount of life passing us by as we send half assed texts to each other or play angry birds. How much are we really listening to when someone we love talks to us? How present are we actually in the moment?
In the year of my smart phone being absent, I have started really plugging into my family and friends again. I feel a sense of freedom from the internet. I don't have to worry about texts or news notifications. I am not pressured to look at what has been sent until I make time for it. If and when I want those things, I carve out time to get on my computer. I am now in control of my time, not my smart phone.
I find that now when my husband and I go out for lunch on Mondays, we have become closer. Why? Because we have no distractions at the table or in the car. We have no other recourse but to talk. We discuss. We communicate with speech rather than texts and e-mails.
I find that if my friends want to talk to me, they actually have to make time for me by picking up the actual phone and calling me. They make time for me now, and it lets me know they care. Just as I have to make time for them. Like friends should. Because we are important to each other and maybe it is high time we all started acting like it.
I don't want to become a stranger to my family and friends and only communicate through the internet. I want to sit and talk with them. Get to know how their day went personally and not second hand from a face book post. I want to hear their voices and see their reactions. I want them to know I am here for them physically not just behind the screen of two hundred dollar hand held computer that fits in my pocket. We have lost the ability to communicate with others face to face without distractions or correct verbage. So worried about what we are missing out on that we end up missing out on some of the most important times in our lives. We are missing out and we don't even realize it.
We hide behind our internet masks and say things or troll horrible things that we would never say in real life because we would never have the "courage" or meanness to say such things in person. Not when we actually would have to see the pain in the other person's eyes after we inflicted such damaging diatribes. We have become strangers to our loved ones and worse yet to ourselves. I don't know about you but I am not okay with that. I don't want to become less of a person in real life just so I can be more of a person online. I want to be both me and to do that I have to allocate my time accordingly. My family should and will always be what I spend most of my uninterrupted time for. They certainly deserve me fully present with them.
I am not saying you should get rid of your smart phone, but I am suggesting you not carry it with you constantly. Apps and e-mails and notifications can wait. They aren't meant to take the place of actual conversations or life. They should be viewed as the distractions they are and not the life altering situations they have become. Cell phones are supposed to make life easier not dictate what we do. Maybe we should take a really long look at ourselves and ask when is the last time we actually unplugged from the internet and actually plugged back into our lives. Think about it. When is the last time you actually listened to your kids or loved ones without looking down at a smart phone screen? When is the last time you had a conversation on the phone rather than sent emoticons? When is the last time you realized that studies show that about 75% of people admit to using their smart phones on the toilet? That's right people text you while using the bathroom. First of all that is just nasty and secondly don't you think that you are worth more than a poop text? And even worse some text during intercourse or while driving. We have become a people that distract ourselves with smart phones while doing things that should require our full attention. Whether it be a family day out or operating a two ton vehicle. Whether it be intimate time with your significant other or simply using the restroom, shouldn't we be doing these things without distraction? Don't we owe it to ourselves? I mean in twenty years are we really going to remember that text we sent when we got food poisoning? Are we really placing e-mails over the short years we have to watch our children grow into the adults they will become? Will we still value a smiley face emoticon over sharing an intimate meal with our partner/husband/wife?
It seems really silly to me and quite possibly damaging to our growth as human beings, the growth of our children, and the growth of our real life relationships.
Unplug from the phone and plug back in into your lives people. You will thank yourselves later when you realize how much you have been missing.