A few weeks ago, I was travelling from Montreal to Vienna. While I was sitting at the gate, waiting for our plane to start boarding, I looked around. There were other three hundred passengers in the lounge.
You’d think this amount of people would create some real buzz. However, besides planes landing and taking off and noises coming from the main lounge, I could hear almost nothing.
I guess you are wondering why? I’m sure you won’t have a hard time believing in what I’m about to say. Almost everyone was staring at their phone screens.
The saddest thing was that I saw families, friends and couples sitting next to each other without any interest to talk to each other.
To have some time alone is important
I do understand that from time to time we all want to have a quiet time. But have we become so dependent on our phones that we don’t have anything to say to each other for two or more hours?
Don’t take me wrong. I wouldn’t be so shocked by this scene if I see people reading articles or working. Or I see someone who wants to have a little while for themselves. But, when I observe people mindlessly scrolling down their feeds for hours, I don’t get it.
How did we come to this? How did we reach the point when it’s hard for us to survive a couple of minutes or hours without checking our phones? I’m just asking because it seems we’ve forgotten that the time we have with our family, friends or lovers is limited.
When browsing on Medium the other day, I came across an interesting article from John Gorman that struck a chord with me.
Why do we see more people interested in an Instagram feed and life of some stranger thousand miles away more than a friend who is sitting right next to us?
What happened to the simple conversation?
What happened to our ability to enjoy each other’s presence without being constantly glued to our phones? Or without having need to check them every 5 minutes?
I’ve spent some time looking for the words that would describe the age we are living in the best. I’ve recently come across a post published by a friend of mine. The piece was called ‘The Paradox of our Age’. Out of all the lines written in it, these ones stood out for me the most:
“These are the times we build more, better and faster computers to hold more information than ever before, but we talk to each other less.”
The more memories we store in our phone, the less we have to remember. The more we can capture on our phones, the less we need to be present.
It’s funny, the more tools and platforms we develop to connect, the more disconnected we become.
It’s important to find the balance
To be fair, up until recently I was pretty much the same. But then something has changed. When I travelled solo in Canada this year, I often ended up in places with no connection.
How refreshing it was for my mind. It was maybe the first time in years I was fully present. I got to enjoy the moment. I got to experience the local culture, people, the nature. I was enjoying the conversation and thought about nothing else.
It was this very moment in the middle of nowhere that brought me back to my childhood memories. I remembered the times we didn’t have smartphones. As a kid, I called my friends and agreed where we’d meet. That was it. No one could excuse themselves last minute. No one spent time recording everything we did.
If you ask me now, I can still tell you how I felt at that very moment in contrary to 2–3 years ago. I travelled around the world, but I lived my experiences through my mobile phone. If I think about it now, I have a hard time remembering how I felt the first time I visited Brazil or Hong Kong. Has it happened to anyone else?
Is it normal we spend more time building ‘our personal brands’ rather than experiencing things?
What would you do if you have 5 years to accomplish anything?
According to SocialMediaToday, the time we spent for instance on social media beats the time we spend eating, socializing, drinking or else.
An average person spends nearly two hours on social media every day, which equals to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over lifetime. 5 years and 4 months!!! Can’t we honestly think about a better way to spend our time?
We reduced our conversation to a bunch of emoticons, thumbs up, word abbreviations and gifs (although I have to say some are pretty hilarious).
We find it more and more difficult to express ourselves in full and meaningful sentences. Slowly, but surely we forget what it means to be present.
And so I decided to take a step back and try to find balance again.
I would be a hypocrite if I said…
…I would never use a smartphone again.
- I couldn’t imagine not having a possibility to Skype with my family while being on the other side of the world.
- I can’t imagine I wouldn’t be able to order something online on Amazon.
- I don’t want to lose those few minutes a day I kill by scrolling through my Instagram feed looking at mountain pictures.
However, the past few months of being occasionally disconnected helped me to reconnect with myself as well as with the world around me. They taught me to be present at the moment.
There will be enough time to share my experience with my friends and family when I’ll return.
When I think back, I remember that some of the most amazing moments I had were the ones I couldn’t record or post anything because my phone was dead.
Yesterday is a history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift!
I don’t want to endlessly bitch about technology that makes our lives easier. What I want to highlight is the importance of learning to live side by side with technology in a balanced way. Don’t forget to be present.
As John Gorman wrote don’t be everywhere and nowhere.
If you have a dinner with your friends, have the dinner, enjoy your food and company. If you talk with your family about the next holiday plans, remember to actually be there, listen and respond. Don’t spend time on your phone.
The time we have with each other is limited. The most important time we have is ‘now’.
So try to make a better use of it. You don’t want your life to be only a few megapixel memory in your phone, do you?