Let me tell you about smartphones and why, as addicted as I am to mine, they really are toxic for us.
I know, I know, you've heard the word toxic thrown around everywhere nowadays, from technology to phones to drinking to friends, toxic is in pretty much everyone's vocabulary now. And you've probably read everything about toxicity and smartphones in general, but let me give you my take on it.
I got my first phone in seventh-grade, a green Pantech 2 with a slide-y keyboard that was totally cooler than my friend Emma's flip phone she shared with her brother. I loved that phone. I could finally reach my three friends who had phones without having to call their home-phones and worrying who could be listening in on the line. It was indestructible, I once dropped it out of a window two stories high and my friend was still on the line when I retrieved it.
Then, eventually, the iPhone came out. And once my iTouch (you all remember the iTouch, I'm sure) was cracked completely on both sides and unable to turn on, I got an iPhone for my 14th birthday. Not the iPhone1 though, I had the iPhone3, a couple generations after it came out. I quickly became immersed in it, creating cringe-y social media accounts long since deleted and tons of random group messages, like eighth-graders do.
As the iPhone became more and more popular, a lot of things started happening. People started accessorizing with colorful or bedazzled cases, putting gems on the home button, and having it on them at all times. Teachers would tell us to put our phones away every day. Everyone listened to music all the time, we were completely plugged in.
And that was how we stayed for the longest time, a lot of people still plugged in today. I, for one, was completely obsessed. Checking all of my accounts every second of every day, did someone post something? What's a good caption for this picture? Should I edit this one in VSCO? And I never left it. Seriously, my mind was rooted in social media for days, months, YEARS. And I wasn't living my life. I was living through other people, looking at what they were doing, trying to copy them on various platforms. I expanded my outlook to different apps like Twitter and VSCO and was completely and totally immersed in it.
I used to have an app on my phone called Moment, which tracked how often I was using it. To my horror and disbelief, I spent an average of five hours a day on my phone in one way or another, sometimes as low as two or three but occasionally as high as eight or ten. That was when I knew something was wrong and I needed to make a change.
It has taken me a while to realize that I had to put the phone down. I spend my summers in Northern Wisconsin, Minocqua specifically, surrounded by nature and without WiFi, a death sentence for some people I'm sure. But I love it. I have the chance to totally unplug and really enjoy the world. I swim and run and waterski and wakeboard and lay in the sun and I love my life, and then the school year comes around and I find myself plugged back in.
I have since gotten a lot better with the phone, although I listen to Spotify every day for a significant portion of it, I do my best to not mindlessly scroll through various apps and enjoy life, especially on Bloomington's beautiful campus.
But it wasn't even the sheer amount of time I spent on my phone, but what it was doing to me. I started obsessing over people I didn't even know, and it messed with my head. Social media made me think I wasn't as great as them, I wasn't good enough because my Instagram picture didn't have the same backdrop or edit or clever caption or amount of likes.
The problem with social media is that it is toxic. It makes it seem like people are having fun when they might not be, mostly because on social media people only post their highlights, which are often not what they're actually doing in real life. And it makes everyone else looking on feel menial and inconsequential. I know this because I do the same thing, I post pictures of myself looking amazing and having fun, but don't talk about the bad stuff.
This is the problem with Social media and the problem with us. We have been conditioned to believe that if we aren't perfect, we shouldn't let anyone know that, and that's only a tiny clue into how damaged we really are. Perfection is so idolized in our society that we have forgotten what it's like to be human, to be perfectly imperfect, and I think that's tragic.