When I wake up, I reach under my pillow and grab my phone. I check my texts, my email and social media before I even get out of bed.
My phone follows me to the restroom, it plays music for me while I shower, we have breakfast together and when I leave for the day I make sure it’s tucked safely into my back pocket.
It sits against a magnet on the air vent and watches me as I drive around, playing my favorite music or my favorite podcasts. We’re pretty much inseparable. Wherever I am, my cell phone is too.
I read the book “The Power of Off” by Nancy Colier recently and she said that as a society we are addicted to our technology. We are relating to each other and ourselves differently than we did before technology fractured our ability to be present.
Cellphones debilitate our ability to stay present. Our cellphones provide us with instant and easy access to communication and entertainment. It has created a state for us to exist in which there is always something to do, think about, listen to or watch. This blurs a lot of boundaries for ourselves.
Because technology enables us to be available around the clock, we don’t allow ourselves to be off. Because we make ourselves hyper-available, our bodies are constantly in a state of stress.
At the beginning of this semester, all of my instructors gave us students the usual spiel — cell phones are not permitted in class and students caught with them or using them in class are subject to the appropriate discipline.
Business as usual, however, two of my instructors’ instructions really stuck with me.
They said that they were well aware we had our phones on us because, well, it’s 2019. Who doesn’t? They then said that we had to pretend we didn’t have it, and we just had to put it in our backpacks where it was out of sight. Easy, no problem, right? Wrong.
Before cell phones, people didn’t wait around their home phones unless they were expecting a really important phone call. Now, we constantly check our phone just in case.
You know the feeling — just in case I didn’t hear my phone, just in case I never sent the message, just in case there’s no service, just in case my email didn’t refresh, just in case my children called.
Our anxiety increases having our phones just out of sight. People view cellphones as an extension of themselves so putting their phone in their backpack for an entire 75 minutes is stressful.
Instant communication and entertainment fuel our need for instant gratification and we have misinterpreted the opportunity to be available as a demand to be available.
I am guilty of this. I pull out my phone when I am walking onto campus, walking from one class to another, waiting for a meeting, eating, doing homework. Basically, anytime I feel bored and need stimulation, my phone is there to save the day.
The irony is that access to instant communication has disconnected us from each other and from ourselves. We can’t be alone with our thoughts and feelings because it’s too uncomfortable. Or we have so much to do that we’re overwhelmed and we need a quick getaway. We allow technology to have power over us because the benefits seem to outweigh the costs.
I recently read about a toddler who kept soiling himself because he refused to be away from his screen. The child was so disconnected from his own bodily needs because his entertainment was deemed more important.
Last week, I went to work and left my phone in my bag in the break room. I made the conscious effort to be without it. Was it easy? No. There were multiple times that I reached for my back pocket to pull out my phone. There is hardly time to be on my phone but habits die hard.
I try to catch myself when I’m reaching for my phone. I ask myself what I’m hoping to get from it. I don’t always catch myself, but I’m trying.
Technology is advancing faster than we can analyze the impact, but it only has as much power as we give it.