If you look around you while out in public, I bet at least 50% of the people you see are looking at their phone, or at least have it in hand.
I was one of those people, for a while. But I've started to put away my phone, at least while I walk. Here's why:
It is a bit ridiculous how addicted to our electronics, namely our phones, we are--especially millennials. At our fingertips, we can access Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Google, email, etc. The list literally goes on and on and on. It's almost compulsive to fill free time with mindless scrolling through social media.
...If you are bored, you can pick up your phone.
...If you want to play a game, you can pick up your phone.
...If you need to look up something, you can pick up your phone.
...If you want to look busy, you can pick up your phone.
...If you are walking on campus alone, you can pick up your phone.
It's always available (unless it's dead because you used it so much) and, therefore, it's almost always the center of your attention. It is almost scary how much control our phones have over our consciousness.
Honestly, how many times have you walked someplace, completely on autodrive, looking at your phone? Can you even remember the walk? You probably looked up, briefly, every once and a while to make sure you didn't collide with someone and you were going the right way. Other than that, what happened on your walk? What was around you? I bet you can't remember.
This is what happened to me. I noticed I had no recollection of some of my comings and goings and it was kind of terrifying to me. I was so connected to a little rectangle in my hand, I wasn't paying any attention to the world around me. I was absorbed, self-concerned, oblivious. I could have run into a tree. I didn't want to be like that anymore.
So, I put my phone away.
I walk without my little, miracle rectangle and look around me. I think. I don't fill every spare moment with social media or a game or some mindless activity.
It has been the best decision I have made.
You might be thinking... how could walking without your phone for maybe five or ten minutes make a difference?
- An obvious but important one... you don't run into anything! Honestly, it's embarrassing to trip or bang into something because you are too absorbed in the virtual world.
- I disconnect--even if it is just for five minutes. It is five minutes I am not at the will of the internet, the likes or reactions on social media, the constant stream of information.
- I can experience the world around me. It's funny how much you see when you actually look. It sounds cliche, I know. But there is a difference between simply looking around and looking but really paying attention to your surroundings. Looking to see.
- I have time to think. As a college student, my day is often filled with classes, coursework, working my job, and then trying to sleep. Often, every minute is full of something because I don't want to get behind... But, I have started to question whether it really needs to be so full.
It's okay to take a break, think, read, relax, take care of yourself. For me, my electronically disconnected walk was the start of more time for me. It made me realize that setting aside time to journal, read, sleep, eat, etc. is really important for my mental well-being and ability to actually complete all the daily work that was previously found in every minute of every day.
- I begin to break the habit. By consciously putting away my phone, I begin to acknowledge the dependence I have on it. It's hard to admit that I have this pull to it. I still catch myself moving to play games, scroll, etc. But the first step to changing something is recognizing you are doing it.
Maybe separating from your phone isn't important to you like it is for me. Okay, that's fine. But I challenge you to put your phone away for one walk to class or the dining hall or work or even your car. See if you try to reach for it, think you could look something up, feel any pull to be even just holding it in your hand.
If something has that much control over you... is it a good thing?
I don't think so. Do you?