Ever since returning from Central America, I stepped out of a world where no one needed technology to a world where everyone is dependent on it. I want to share a couple of stories.
Story of my Life 1: As a backpacker, I loved my phone. I took all my photos on it. Ancient ruins, traditional clothing and cultures, foods, landscape- you name it. I used it to keep in touch with my family and friends. One day, on our way to a new destination in Guatemala, I reached for my phone in my backpack strap- it was gone. Time stood still. It felt like one of those horror movies, the moment where you realize going down the cellar was a huge mistake. I thought back to the last few hours. I racked my brain until I remembered that earlier the same morning, a friendly Guatemalan man had helped me lift my backpack to the overhead compartment on the bus. He must have felt through the pockets and grabbed my phone, along with all my money in it. How typical of a tourist can I get, letting a stranger handle my bag? I went through the rest of the trip without my brand new iPhone 6 and credit cards. In the chaos of my panic, I suddenly felt a strange calmness. I was jolted out of that world and the need to be constantly connected. No more distractions. I was not going to be that one person checking my Facebook every second, because I didn’t have the ability to. I can immerse myself in the beauty that I was surrounded by. I can actually listen to people who are talking to me. In the end, the only truly important items that I missed were my travel photos.
Story of my Life 2: After two years of not seeing each other, I have finally reunited with my close friend from college. We’ve known each other for 5+ years, sharing countless of memories with each other. We had so much in common: parents, interests, personalities, cultures, etc. I was really excited to see her. After weeks of planning our reunion and $200 spent for an entire weekend in a Hyatt hotel in downtown Atlanta. When it was finally time for us to hang out and catch up, it became glaringly apparent that she wouldn’t stop using her phone. I’m not being over-dramatic. She literally checked her phone every other minute, responding to her boyfriend or chatting up her hometown friend, who both have seen her a few days ago. I tried to engage her with questions about her life, enticed her with all the different things we could do with our night out, etc. She would talk to me absentmindedly and half heartedly, then checked her phone every so often. I suddenly realized that I was interrupting her time with her phone. I brought my concern to her attention, told her that I was upset. She insisted that she didn’t think it was a big deal, that I should have told her earlier, that I was over-reacting. I was heartbroken; it was so unfair. It has now been almost a year since I have spoken to her. I took it to heart never to get carried away with my nose stuck in a device that I don’t see the people around me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my phone. Without it, I would be very lost- literally and figuratively. Luckily, my body has a very natural way of preventing me from getting too technology dependent. I get a headache from staring at an electronic screen for too long. I think that everything should be enjoyed in moderation. When you can’t control your urge to check your phone every 2 minutes, it becomes a problem.
- You become rude to people around you. Are you really even spending time together at that point?
- You become reliant. When used excessively, the devil’s box ensnares the mind. Just like the moment I realized I lost my phone. People don’t know how to cope without it. Technology, used excessively, dulls the mind, making it inept. How can you learn or remember anything when a quick Google search answers the question? It kills the curiosity that drives people.
- You become constantly unmotivated and distracted. When was the last time you read a book without being interrupted by the buzz of your phone and a quick Facebook check-in? Are you playing video games through the night and neglecting your dinner? Do you binge-watch TV shows on Netflix?
What am I going to do now that I get off my phone? Surprisingly, not all people in NYC glue their faces to their phones in the subway. They do a variety of things- listen to music, read, or just sit and relax before/after a day of work. In a fast-paced, high efficiency environment, I figured they learned that it is a good balance in life.
- Spend time with people. They’re much more interesting in person than on your chat box, I promise.
- Read. It might be cliched, but reading is awesome in many ways: improves focus, jogs memory, expands imagination, relaxes the mind, and takes you on an adventure! You then can talk to people about it.
- Play an instrument. Whenever I’m overwhelmed with work, TV, life, I like to switch gears and play some music. I play the same chords on the ukulele with every song. It’s not hard to learn. It’s just nice to hear something real once in awhile. I also like to sing.
- Take a walk. I’m not a very active person on a daily basis (though I should be), but I love taking a refreshing walk once in awhile.
- Board games. We have an entire shelf stacked up to the ceiling of board games hoarded from over the years. Play them!
I recently bought my little brother a Minecraft Book Series Boxset for his birthday. If you have any kids in your family, you’ll know that they are obsessed with Minecraft. At the time, the box set competed with Pokemon plush toys, cool gadgets, and new clothes. As months passed by, all his toys became boring and he began to read the books. Through them, his imagination was able to expand. He still reads and re-reads them because he loves the world so much. It was not video games, but his imagination had taken place of his other senses. Imagination is the most powerful thing you have and it must be nurtured.
I’m still trying to teach my little brother and sisters to take enjoyment in doing other things than technology. Learning to balance relationships, self, and technology is very important in happiness. Don’t let your phone take control of you. You take control of it.
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