Not long ago I read an article that use of electronic devices, specifically cell phones mimic addiction to drugs in some people. I am sure I read this article on my cell phone and I am here to admit that I am a compulsive cell phone user. I haven’t gone cold turkey for a day to see if I develop the shakes, but this article said it was possible and I would not be surprised if I did. My cell phone is a tremendous tool and one that I could never have envisioned becoming as big a part of my daily life as it has.
When I am not wrapped up on something on my phone I do like to people watch and I can confirm that not only am I not alone in this affliction but I am probably closer to being in the majority. Everywhere I look I see people with their heads down looking at an electronic device attached to their hand. I wonder just how much we miss of the world around us while we are staring intently at that screen.
A couple of recent examples come to mind for me personally. First was the Kansas State versus West Virginia basketball game. So far, this year it is K-State’s best game and it was a great game no matter who you were rooting for. The game was back and forth with many lead changes, I had great seats for the game and was enjoying it greatly. Then came a controversial call and immediately I found myself checking Twitter to see what others, especially the “experts” were saying about it.
In the middle of my reading the numerous opinions that were tweeted, my loving wife asked why I had my phone out and why I was not paying attention to the game in front of me. Shamed and without a good answer I put the phone down, for the moment. I promise you I went back and checked numerous times.
A week later we had similar great tickets for the K-State versus Baylor women’s basketball game. If you follow K-State women’s basketball you will know this game was not a shining moment in K-State’s season but I enjoy watching good teams and Baylor is a very good team. This night I did not have my phone because I had used it too much during the day and my battery was dead forcing me to leave it in the car. It was amazing just how much more of the game I watched and how many more details about the game I noticed. The thought went through my mind that maybe I should leave my phone in the car every time, that is when the shakes started.
Then just this past week the kids and I took Jennifer out to supper to celebrate her birthday. The service was not exactly speedy but that was OK it gave us time for some good conversations. Well, that is partially correct. I looked up from my device to see my other three family members looking at their phones, conversing with someone not at our table. Then I looked around the restaurant and realized that we were not unusual.
Don’t get me wrong, cell phones are a great tool and it is hard to remember life without it. Although I often wonder if we would be better off going back to a time without instant communication. Just how much do we miss because we cannot be without our devices and we cannot bear to go a minute without checking to see if we have new messages.
I know I have a problem and I have tried to compensate for my lack of will power, there are places and times I choose to leave my phone in the car. Church has always been one of those places, that is the one time of the week that I cannot afford distractions. One of the things I am trying to work on this year is to be more focused on the here and now and less on what notification my phone thinks I should pay attention too. Maybe we should all choose times when our lives would benefit from fewer distractions and shut the phone off.
Instant communication is a two-edged sword and one that we need to take a long hard look at. Are we so focused on not missing a social media post, an e-mail or a text that we miss the world right in front of our noses and beyond our screen. I think the answer is probably yes and I am also certain that our quality of life will improve vastly when we shift our focus beyond that screen.