If I was to ask to teenagers these days how long they would last without their devices, I believe the answers will be 2 hours or 3 hours and, for some unbelievable cases, 5 hours. Well, after breaking my phone a few weeks ago, I decided to wait 10 days before repairing it.
Since I didn’t have the apps on my computer except Facebook, it was 10 days without snapchat, without Instagram and without Whats’app. These 10 days were an opportunity for me to open my eyes on some astonishing and frightening things that we can’t point out when we constantly ‘look down.’
Observing my surroundings for that amount of time made me sad. I saw how people now eat, drink, talk, walk and sleep with their phones. It seems as if true social interaction is evaporating away slowly but surely. Yet, the worst, people just carry on living their lives, not realising that they’re turning to addictive gadgets that brings short-term benefits and long-term harms.
Throughout my ‘phoneless’ time, I learned 4 things and honestly, I am thankful for what happened because now I acquired knowledge I didn’t have before and I intend to cherish that information and use it in my life.
First of all, I learnt that Devices are addictive, as addictive as cigarettes, alcohol and gambling. When we receive text messages, a substance called dopamine is released in our body. Dopamine is also released when we smoke, drink or gamble. Of course people don’t want to admit it but it’s a scientific fact and unless you’re Donald Tump, everyone agrees that science is not the right one to challenge. Teenagers turn to drinks and smokes when they want to flee from their stress and from the miserable aspect of their lives. However, we all know that this stress-relief is only in the short-term and it ends up in complete addiction. Giving a phone to a child and saying ‘use it as much as you wish’ is exactly the same as offering a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of alcohol. Drinking a little bit is not bad, too much is dangerous. Gambling in small amounts is fun, too much is bad. Texting a little and spending time on our phone is absolutely okay but too much is significantly unfavourable. So just like these addictive drugs, teenagers turn to their phones as a temporary relief but we all know that phones and drugs don’t offer long term effective relief. By getting used to that habit, teenagers don’t learn the true coping mechanism that is needed for real life situations and they don’t exercise real life management of their feelings. This lack of learning process causes teenagers to not have enough self-confidence when they’re inevitably opposed to real life problems. Incredibly, this results in higher crime rate, higher depression rates and higher suicide rates. Crazy isn’t it? Well this is not a made up lie, it has been scientifically proven and I recommend readers to make researches on the inspiring Simon Sinek from whom I got a lot of information. Pleas go and watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MC2X-LRbkE
Secondly, I learned that ‘social’ media ironically kills true social interaction. Nowadays, phones are everywhere and it scares me to see how we all care about our life on our phones and forget about the real life situations out there in the real world. Where are the times when we used to sit down on the table with friends or even with family where no one would take their phones out? Where are the times when we were able to enjoy truly and fully some great moments of our lives, without having to constantly film everything to show our surroundings? Where are the times when we cared more about our actual live as opposed to the life we portray on Social media? Where are the times where we used to sit back and take the time to write letters to people? Where are the times when people judged you by your personality, not by the amount of likes on your pictures? When you are surrounded with people during a meeting, during a hang out or during a dinner, if people have their phones with them, they are indirectly telling you they have more important things to do than to talk with you. That’s hard to take in isn’t it? Especially knowing the more important aspect is actually not even there. It’s like Lost Kings’ song ‘why don’t you ever put that phone down’ where she says: ‘What could be so much more important?” Think about all the times you talk to someone and you know you’re not listened at, does it feel nice? No, it doesn’t
Thirdly, I realised that no matter how much I criticise technology in this blog, we are all guilty of the increasing importance that devices have in our lives and that definitely includes me. I can’t recall exactly how many times my siblings get mad at me for using my phone too often. I too, often have these moments where I just realise I spent hours scrolling down on Facebook, not even noticing the time passing. Nevertheless, I would like to remind the readers that, as I said, there is truly no problem with these devices as long as we control the amount of time spent on them. I just believe that it’s important for all of us to know about all the facts and just use them to help us in our everyday lives. Don’t we all like it much more when someone looks us in the eyes and genuinely asks ‘How are you” then someone who asks the same thing with his/her eyes focussed on the screen, not on you.
Finally, I also released how this use of devices has amazing benefits too (I guess you didn’t see this one coming). Especially for all of us, students from BSJ, who live ‘international lives’ where people endlessly come and go, it is amazing to be able to send a message to someone 20 000 km away in a second or less. I am grateful in that sense because I get to keep in touch with so many friends in Europe and around the world and it’s also possible to take some pictures to share with them and do some skypes and that’s great. However, we all know that to keep true friendships thriving, we need to work for it, not only through phones. It would include taking the time to see them when you come back home, it would include showing the people you care about them by for example taking the time to write a big letter. It would include keeping them updated about how your life goes and also, very importantly, it would include listening to them, let them tell you about them allowing you to give your input and opinion. I have a question for you, if you had to count how many true, actual and close friends you had, how many would it be, disregarding the thousands of people you ‘know’ on social media. Just like many others, I tried this too, and the most common answer is ‘a handful.’ Big change, right, from 1000 to 10, and on top of that, researches say that these 5 people are much more important in your life than the 1000 others online. So please, leave your phone, and go see them. Look in their eyes and ask them: ‘How are you’?
What I got out of this and what I would like everyone to get out of this text is that in our lives, we need to balance many aspects and social media is one of them. In many situations in life, there are positives and negatives and that’s where we have to find a good balance to satisfy ourselves. Technology has evolved in a way no one could have predicted and as much as it has amazing benefits, let us not allow technology to rule us and our lives. At the end of they day, we are the sole rulers of ourselves and if phones start to control what we do and what we believe, then soon there will be no talking at all, there will just be communicating via phones and when that will happen, the human race will have lost one if it’s most precious skills: the art of actively communicating one-to-one, not through media.