Can We Stop Vilifying Our Phones for One Minute?
A couple of weeks ago I downloaded an application called Moment. What it does is help you set and achieve a goal of minimizing how long you look at your phone. Every time you pick up your phone it lets you know how many times today you had already picked it up. I downloaded it because I felt like I should cut down on my phone time. Although I’m not particularly bothered by how much I look at my phone, it has become this collective obligation that we look at our phone less. Phones are bad but we can’t live without them. Everywhere I found “How to Stop Being Addicted to Your Phone” articles. But am I addicted though? Should we really conflate excessive device usage with substance abuse?
So I found myself giving in to the idea that holding my phone too much is a bad thing. That I’d rather have my son see me with a book in my hand rather than scrolling through Instagram (I mean, I do). I decided I’ll crack down on the screen time. Surely this would be better for me.
As bad as it is looking at my phone too much, I cannot deny that that’s how I get ideas for my writing, my workouts, my makeup routine, my nutritional updates, journaling prompts, and new music.
Whenever I caught myself reaching for my phone, I stopped myself. My goal was to not pick up my phone more than 15 times a day (which, I can assure you, is pretty challenging!). I started reaching my book more (which I eventually put down for good because it was not as good as I had hoped) and watching more TV. But something was missing from my life. I know a bunch of readers will deem this “withdrawal” symptoms, much like addiction. But let me clarify something: I wasn’t suffering from phone withdrawal; I was suffering from a lack of inspiration. As bad as it is looking at my phone too much, I cannot deny that that’s how I get ideas for my writing, my workouts, my makeup routine, my nutritional updates, journaling prompts, and new music. My phone means so much more than just virtual socialization.
Then I realized something: why’s holding my phone such a bad thing? It does bring me happiness when I’m reading articles on Medium, watching makeup tutorials on Instagram, listening to music on YouTube. Why am I supposed to feel bad about liking these things? Frequently, I find myself researching a new blog post idea and putting it together by collecting notes on Evernote alongside my journal.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I breastfeed my baby around ten times a day these days. He’s extra clingy at this stage in his life and breastfeeding is how he gets his comfort fix. While nursing him I’m always on my phone. I’m scrolling through Instagram usually. It’s probably the only thing that keeps me entertained during nursing. I can’t always grab my book because it’s usually dark when I’m breastfeeding. I do sometimes read on kindle when I feel like it (I placed both Kindle and Medium applications on my home-screen instead of Instagram for that purpose).
I do realize that we’ve become addicted to our phones and it is scary that these devices have almost this complete control over us. But it’s really not so bad sometimes, is it? We’ve been coming down so hard on social media and technology and how far we’re taking everything that we forget the benefits we’re reaping. No, we’re not only tethered to this virtual reality. We’re accessing information like never before. AND THAT’S AWESOME. As much as it pains me to say it, my phone allows my creativity to flow in a way that my journal can’t. I can instantly fact check, spell check, and read up on a topic I want to write about.
I guess it always depends on what it is you choose to do on your phone. But what I am trying to say is, how about we acknowledge the endless inspiration we’re getting from social media? I get 80% of my inspiration to write from social media. And I do not feel that there’s anything wrong with that.
I’ve deleted the Moment application because there’s no way I was going to reach the “phone pick-up” number that I had set for myself. Social media keeps me sane while being a busy mother. It gives me a sweet escape right in the down-and-dirty of mothering. It makes me feel less alone in so many ways. It’s my consolation when I feel alone in my frustration; it’s the cure for my writer’s block.
A huge pet peeve of mine, though, is how in the midst of a social event I find people on their phones. Unless you’re in a group outing where you’d rather be in bed watching Netflix and your lack of attention isn’t that disruptive, it’s pretty disrespectful to be engaged with anything other than the person you’re out with. On the other hand, if I’m out with you or we’re having a conversation I will never disrespect your company by looking at my phone. That’s something that I don’t even need to actively remind myself not to do because for me it’s a given. I’ll never sacrifice human connection for the false virtual one.
I do have my phone in my hands a lot. But before we jump to assuming that that’s the worst thing in the world, can we just take a second to relax? We need to stop vilifying social media en masse. We do need to condemn certain unhealthy behaviors and mentalities that are by-products of social media abuse. But also let’s come to terms with the fact that this unlimited access to information is giving us a lot as creatives and writers.