We have trained ourselves to never need to be bored. Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all options for us to avoid being left alone with our own thoughts. The insurgence of cell phones into our society has become as deeply ingrained as Ford's first automobiles. When you experience something that convenient, it's hard to go back. We are living in a world where cyborgs exist and we are all one of them. I would define the projection of identities on to virtual social media accounts as being part cyborg. I started caring about social media when I was about thirteen. What a cruel joke to give a crisis-struck pre-teen unlimited platforms to be anxious about. Not to mention, the internet has a tendency to remember. Millennials find themselves not only preoccupied with navigating social concerns like, "what is my personal style?" but also, "what one line bio best captures my essence?" Furthermore, according to Common Sense Media, half of teens report feeling addicted to their phones.
So why don't those 50 percent of teens just stop? The Millennial generation is the first to live in a phone-dominated
world where seemly infinite information is available anytime at the touch of
our fingertips. While our phones can help us learn the roads of unfamiliar
territory, can they teach us how to navigate the new phone-dominated social
scene? Teenagers now not only have one person to manage, but virtual
personalities as well. When someone messages your social media account, they feel like they are in that moment talking to you. However, you can't be more than one place at a time, so you could be sleeping or half way across the world. But in a way, you are still responsible for the upkeep of that person. We have an anxiety that is deeply rooted in this obligation to technology.
Don’t get me wrong, smart phones are an amazing tool that make our lives all sorts of convenient. I can virtually visit 20 different local restaurants with a few soft taps of my finger before actually committing to one. When asked why he uses Twitter, zero waste activist Alec Howard says, “I’m obsessed with the latest climate change news. It’s the most morbid thing, but I want to hear what people are saying as our planet is being destroyed.” Others have accounted their technology use to the satisfaction of boredom, the desire to stay updated, and of course not get lost. But what are we really searching for as we scroll through our phones?
I remember being at home as a kid during the summers and anxiously missing my friends and waiting to go back to school. Boredom is a part of excitement. Social media and technology often give us an easy solution to boredom so that we don't have to be bored. Yet when we are bored, we are in pursuit of entertainment. We wrestle in our seats and find ourselves outside of our comfort zone exploring. It motivates us to do new things, like maybe try painting for the first time or picking up surfing like we always wanted to. Developing methods of entertaining oneself can lead to the discovery of passions and joys.
we are searching through our newsfeed, we are often times looking for
entertainment, connection, validation or distraction. Some people like
to use their social media to keep in touch with family and friends. They
receive validation and recognition in the form of likes and comments. But of all the time that we spend scrolling through social feeds, how much of it do we really remember? There's too much useless information and not enough ways of filtering it. By scrolling through social media, we are inviting in endless information. This can result in feelings of
over stimulation and anxiety.
I'm definitely a fan of photography, and that's definitely part of my attachment to my phone. I was on a backpacking trip in Asia, and countlessly thought about how little the photos I was taking would ever be able to tell the story. On the rickshaw to the airport, I had an image of my phone falling from my pocket and getting crushed by oncoming traffic. I thought at that moment, "my phone is the most valuable possession I own right now because of those photos." I was at a loss for words when I got to the airport and my phone was actually gone. I patted my pocket where it was probably 100 times. I unloaded & reloaded my backpack in the restroom three times before realizing. They're gone. Every photo I took, everything that I wanted to share, is gone. Except it's really not. The photos are gone, but that kind of makes it 100 times better. No one else will ever be able to validate my story, but me. It's my memory and adventure that is private. Sometimes that feels like a lost luxury in our day and age. It really made me question what my first days back in the U.S. would have been like. Would I have jumped right back into technology feet first and uploaded an album with 100 photos to Facebook? Probably, but instead I spent my first month back in the states without a cell phone and keeping up new mentalities and habits (like meditation!). I'm glad I learned that lesson, even if it was the hard way.
They say that a photo says a thousand words, but I disagree. Looking through my cell phone to find a photo wouldn't compare to me describing the elation I felt standing above all the rooftops, in a whirlwind of kites, with the sun setting, deep in the deserts of Rajasthan.
I can't say that I know what you are searching for on your phone, but I know for myself that a lot of the comfort I seek from it I will never find there. The important piece is that we ask ourselves this question, and possibly reallocate time away from phone usage if it's not meeting our needs. Ultimately, the search for entertainment, self-discovery and connection is waiting outside your pocket and outside your door.