Cell phones of today have transformed from merely being a way to communicate, to a 24-hour all-knowing source of information. It’s like we grew an appendage from our palm. Our phones have become an extension of our personalities. It’s the first thing we look at in the morning, and the last thing we see before going to bed. We take it to the restroom, to the laundry room, to dinner. We carry it wherever we go. There’s a sense misguided urgency surrounding our devices.
Though my fellow generation Xer’s didn’t grow up with this level of innovation, today we feel they are imperative. The ability to make phone-calls is no longer good enough. Texting and visiting various social media sites are essential, lest we become unconnected for a minute or more.
Some of us spend hours on our phones daily. 4 or more hours scrolling Facebook, Snapchat, twitter, etc… Watching countless videos from pseudo-experts or conspiracy theorists on YouTube. Checking their text messages, Group Me, emails, etc.
Why must we be constantly connected? Isn’t it similar to a wearing a leash around our necks? We think we’re fortunate to have these gadgets at our disposable, but the truth is, we are a nation that is more distracted and more depressed than ever before. Suicide rates in children and teens as a result of cyber bullying is heart-breaking.
Meanwhile, tech developers continue to make their products more engaging and more addictive as each year passes. Therefore, technology will only continue to become more advanced. With the invention of virtual reality headsets, you can invite “friends” over to “your house” and watch a movie. Only these “friends” are avatars and the sofa they’re sitting in isn’t real. For those who have a difficult time making friends in real life, this may seem like a great way to meet people, but it doesn’t help to increase this skill for real world application. In fact, it’s true that people were more engaged with one another before we had the ability to turn on our phones and see everything that was happening with our friends and family simply by scrolling through their endless timelines. The need to call and catch ever dwindling.
Long gone are the days of writing out an invitation and hand delivering it to a friend or addressing a beautifully sealed envelope with love and shipping it directly to their door. Now invitations are sent electronically. Yet another reason to keep us tied to our electronics, the fear of missing out.
But our relationships are not the only hindrance caused by smart phones. They can also be extremely distracting. My vice as of late has been YouTube. The never-ending stream of videos about countless subjects keeps me stuck for hours sometimes. Notice I used the word stuck, not enthralled, but stuck. Being an information junkie, I almost feel like I must watch every interesting video I scroll to. I add plenty of videos to my watch later list, but I never actually go back and watch any of them, because my homepage is more than enough to keep me crazed for hours if I allow it to. I recently set a timer on my YouTube account that lets me know if I’ve been watching for 1 hour. I can easily dismiss it and continue to binge watch, or I can make myself put the phone down and go do something more engaging and productive. I know with the amount of time I have spent on my phone in the last two years, I could have written a book and probably read 50 more books than I did. I could have started another business or expanded the current business I have. This blog could be so much more than what it is. That’s what mindfulness is about, learning to live in the moment and not being controlled by the many distractions we face daily.
I would be remiss if I didn’t speak on the financial impact that cell phone usage has caused. We’re walking around with tiny computers in our pockets, and though the size may be different, the price tag is not. Cell phones as high as 1000 US dollars are lining the purses and pockets of people who are living paycheck to paycheck. The phones aren’t for business. They’re for entertainment, for social media, for status. They require expensive data plans and the costs continue to add up. People have become accustomed to thinking of their steeply priced iphones and androids as needs and not wants. Similar beliefs have contributed to the high income to debt ratio of many middle-class Americans.
Mounting evidence also shows that cell phones could be the cause of increased rates of Cancer and tumors. Did you know that you’re supposed to keep your cell phone between 5-15 mm away from your body at all times in order to decrease your risk to radio frequency exposure? There is a message located in the “Legal” section of your phone that speaks to this RF exposure. But how many people use their phones 5-15 mm away from their body? For people who regularly place their phone up to their ear, this means you are putting your brain at risk for cancer. For people who carry their phones tucked inside their back pockets, you are at a higher risk for developing tumors. Why isn’t anyone talking about this? There should be a sign on the front of every iPhone package like a tobacco product, that reads, “warning: using this product may increase your risk of various cancers and tumors.” But until we start fighting back and taking our health, rather than our convenience and amusement, more seriously, then big corporations will continue to put your health at risk for the love of money.
While technology is supposed to continue to make life easier for us, we also must take responsibility for how we choose to use or abuse these inventions. Tech developers are doing their jobs very well by keeping us completely enthralled. To ask them to not do their best work would be disheartening. However, there should be some transparency regarding the effect that these products have on our physical and mental well-being. And as consumers, we need to understand that these devices should be used as tools to help us achieve more freedom, rather than enslaving us. We all need to do a better job of parenting ourselves, so that we can live the lives we envision; unless, of course, you prefer gorging on Candy Crush and watching endless cat videos.
Let’s be the change we wish to see.
Until Next Time,