Day 1: It begins!
Well, here we are! Day 1 of my tech diet. In full clarity, I have really not had a smartphone since a couple days ago; this is really the first day that I will be reflecting on it. I've had the last couple days to adjust and work out the kinks of not having one.
I thought I would take today to explain why I am doing this.
With all the gripes about 2016 being the "worst" year on record, I have looked back on it in a different way. Through a political lens, I saw the year as 365 days of uninterrupted information overload. While this was of course attributed to the fact that there was a polarizing presidential election, it seemed as if the frequency and amount of stories and developments made it incredibly arduous to discern what was important and what wasn't through much of the political static. This is my number one critique of the current media/political landscape; the fact that there is so much coming at us, we do not know where to put our energy. This new year and its recent political developments do not seem to offer any respite.
How do phones fit into all of this? Media consumption, and the intake of information as a whole, I believe, has become streamlined by the very tools that bring it to us. It use to be that a newspaper (and I am using this as a model because it is the most tangible one) offered you content once or twice a day. Then came TV news, where we didn't have to leave our house. Then we were looking at the headlines on our desktops, which changed much of the way news could not only be consumed, but created. We now had thousands of choices: right-wing, left-wing, high-brow and low-brow.
But what is crucial to understand, and the underlying reason as to why I am doing what I am doing, is the transition from consuming information of a computer to your smartphone. We now don't even have to get out of our bed to get our news. This has created not only an information overload, but prevents us from differentiating between what is important, and what is not.
This does not only apply to political news. When you think about the vast number of different ways we can communicate: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, iMessage, Messenger, Twitter, etc., we are being exposed to that same dangerous frequency of information and communication. I am of course not naïve to the fact that these tools offer amazing ways to connect to others. But when did we ever seek moderation?
This brings me to the other crucial aspect to this tech diet: addiction. I have always thought that if we drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, watched TV, or did something as mundane as eating chocolate as much as we looked at our smartphones, it would be considered an addiction. For some reason, we don't equate it with one, and this is what perplexes me. Prior to switching to a flip-phone, I found myself, like almost everyone who owns a smartphone, constantly attached to it. It was not up until a few months ago that I started to observe my own behaviors with it.
My morning would start immediately with scrolling through Instagram and/or the New York Times. Like eating an extremely large breakfast right as you wake up, my mind was chock-full of information (some good, most of it not) within 10 minutes. By mid-day, I was stressing out about not texting someone back. And before I would go back to sleep, the blueish hue of the smartphone light would keep my mind racing. Throughout my day, there were two dangerous aspects to my phone use: escapism and dependency, and I believe we are held in a tight grasp by both when it comes to our smartphones.
Regarding the first aspect, our smartphones offer us the greatest escape in any situation. Whether we are bored waiting for something, in a social situation that makes us uncomfortable, about to go to sleep, or trying to avoid doing homework, it seems as if our smartphone fills in the wedges and gaps in all of these instances. Not only do we not have to face reality, but more importantly, we temporarily do not confront what we don't like: boredom, awkwardness, working.
Dependency is a little more complicated, and I will undoubtedly elaborate on this point a later on down the road. But from what I can extrapolate at this point in time being three days smartphone-free is that we are all deathly afraid of not being in touch with each other, as well as being out of the loop (news, etc.). Dependency is really about a inextricable hunger for human connection and information. And there is certainly nothing wrong with this. It is just that smartphones do not offer any sort of sense of control.
It is with my adoption of my flip-phone that I would like to try to eliminate the need to escape or depend on anything. If we are to be successful in pursuing what we want to achieve in our lives, smartphones almost certainly will help in certain areas, but can severely limit our creativity, while creating a cycle of dependency and a need to escape certain situations.
Thank you for reading the first post in my 28 day challenge... check out tomorrow's post for more observations of what having a flip-phone is like.