When walking across campus, I’ve noticed that fifty percent or more of the people I encounter are holding or using their phone. In fact, it’s to a point that I’m more surprised when people make eye contact or talk to me between classes. Once I passed eight people in a row who didn’t even see me (or choose to see me) because they were wrapped up in their phone. It looked something like this:
In an article published by TIME, I discovered that in the United States people check their phone an average of 46 times per day. For 18-24 year olds, the average is 74 checks per day. I am not immune. I check my phone before, after, and during every class or event, while I’m doing homework, and even when I’m in the bathroom, walking, or driving. Once I read the statistic, I began to realize how often I unconsciously reach for the device and decided to do a little test. At 6:15pm, I began to keep a tally of the amount of times I check my phone or think about checking my phone. In four hours, the tally had reached over twenty. I can attempt to justify the times I picked up my phone knowing had a Snapchat to open or desiring to change the song on Spotify, but even then I’m disgusted by subconscious reliance on and connection that I have to the tiny device.
Part of me wants to lock it away for a day, to sever the connection, but as Paul Levinson writes, “To give someone your cell number is to render yourself accessible to that person anytime, anywhere.” I’m not reliant on my phone, it is actually the world that is reliant on me to have it, right? Maybe. One of the great benefits of technology is our ability to stay connected. But according to this animation:“We’re sacrificing conversation for mere connection, and so a paradoxical situation is created in which we claim to have many friends, while actually being lonely.”
Crazy, but true. Our generation likes to use the phrase FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to describe one of the side effects of the phenomena. FOMO is a legitimate feeling that drives us to check and recheck our phones in the hopes that someone thought we were worth inviting along for the ride. It also drives us to post and to propose to the virtual public that our “fun” was better than theirs. But are we proving our lives to the people in our world or trying to placate our restless insecurities?
“We want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter. We pay continuous partial attention in an effort NOT TO MISS ANYTHING.” – Linda Stone
These people are certainly all on to something. But the question we must each address is at what point does the use become abuse or even the detriment of our relationships and ability to focus on the present circumstances. The phone often becomes an outlet to be heard and to be known. Because that’s what we truly desire. But electronic communication is a generic version of the real thing. It doesn’t smile or give hugs bring us fulfilling encouragement through tone of voice. And somehow in our race for constant connection with humanity, we are losing our ability to say hello on the sidewalk…