We've all been there: walking somewhere without ever looking up from your phone screen. It happens all the time. Sometimes the lack of focus on the world around us makes us trip or fall. Sometimes we look down to avoid starting a conversation with someone when we're in a rush. And sometimes we do it because we feel awkward in a situation, so we turn to our phones to provide us company, to ease the fear of being alone, to make us look "cool." Regardless of the various reasons we do it, the fact of the matter is this: while we watch our phone screens, we are letting the world pass us by.
I, by no means, am innocent of this phenomenon. But something that a professor said to my class made me take a step back and think about this habit of mine. The class is a creative writing class, so along with encouraging us to write every day, she told us to make an effort to look around us, to really see the world and its details every day. These are the things that inspire us, after all. So how did we get here? How did we become a generation of people who don't look at each other? And, more importantly, is this making us lose our empathy and our sense of self?
Being alone is not something I was always comfortable with. If I'm being honest, I'm still not completely comfortable with it. There's something so vulnerable in sitting down at a table to eat lunch alone. It's not for a lack of friends, just a lack of time or planning. But this need to always be with people, to always be connected to something, be it a virtual network or a physical network, is something that has been slipped into our society. But in looking down at a phone during that solo lunch, you miss a part of the pleasure in the meal. While you're too busy trying to stay connected, you lose connection to the real, physical world you are a part of.
So let's start looking up. Or let's just try to; progress doesn't have to be instant. Look at the leaves on the trees. Look at the sky canopied above your head. Look at the faces of the people you know. Look at the faces of the people you don't know. Admire the details, the quirks, the things that make this life beautiful and scary and lonely at times. Understand that being you, that having alone time, that being disconnected, is okay and is transformative. Be present in the world you inhabit. And yes, look at your phone; it is important to stay connected, and phones help us stay connected to the people we can't be physically with in the present. But don't let that screen consume you. Look up. You might be surprised at what you start noticing.