As a writer and blogger, I am often guilty of depending on my phone a little too much. But I am very, very aware of how much time I can spend flicking through social media and I am well able to leave the phone down.
Like everyone, I sometimes find myself constantly checking it; needing to know if people had responded or reacted or replied to me, especially as my summer holidays set in and I was able to be more active on my social media platforms. Unlike during my working day, I had access to my phone all day, every day. But then I realised that it was taking up more minutes of the day than I cared to admit. And those are minutes that I really have more important things to be doing.
So a few months ago, I made the simple, but absolutely life-changing decision, to switch off notifications on my phone. Such a basic, quick solution to an ugly problem. Rather than constantly feeling obliged to click on the little red number beside the Facebook or Insta icon, I am more in control of when I do (and more importantly, when I don’t) pick it up.
Is it working? I think so. It’s certainly made me think twice about my own relationship with my phone and I’m enjoying the mental freedom of no longer being a puppet to the beeping puppeteer. But let me tell you. I only THOUGHT I had a problem.
In the past few months, I’ve been in two massive cities; firstly London, then New York. (I’m not usually that jetsetting and exciting, but it’s been a busy one!) And one thing that I noticed in each, was how ridiculously stuck to screens people are.
Now I’m not just talking about people ignoring each other in bars and restaurants for virtual conversations on their screen. I’m not just talking about the woman who is so busy flicking through videos about drawing eyebrows, and fake smiles and backsides on Instagram, that she doesn’t see the person who might be interested in hers across the table.
I’m not just talking about the man who says “in a minute” eleven times before actually looking up to answer his friend, or partner, or child. Because while all of these things are sadly a daily occurrence in most cities, what I couldn’t get my head around was the fact that in the larger cities, people now are taking their phone to a new level.
Because now, it is unsafe to walk on a street.
There is a new generation, or species perhaps, who genuinely do not realise that when they are walking, they must LOOK AHEAD. Or at least look at the ground in front of them.
They possibly think they are living inside the virtual reality of whatever computer game they like to play, and that if people walk into them, they will simply dissipate and dissolve and disappear like the avatars in their games do.
They don’t GET that if you don’t look ahead of you, you can not see where you are going and therefore, you will bump into people.
Perhaps these are a new-age type who have actually evolved to deal with the banal act of walking in the real world. Perhaps I am mistaken and they are ACTUALLY looking at a clever app on their device which is warning them to step left, or manoeuvre right or to stop at the road.
Maybe it is I who is so sad and deluded. Or maybe, just maybe, I am simply old and these young’uns have actually evolved to such heights that they can now see from the top of their heads and therefore don’t HAVE to look up, like we oldies. Never mind our mothers who had eyes in the back of their heads, these guys have them on the top.
Am I being sarcastic. (God yes. And if you are genuinely unsure, perhaps YOU need some more human interaction!) But in all seriousness, the number of times I got shouldered or bumped into or actually pummelled while trying to walk through the already crazy gauntlet of the modern city streets, was unbelievable.
And I’m not referring exclusively to young people here, although the majority were possibly of the snowflake generation, possibly genuinely believing that other people quite simply must MOVE out of their way. Heaven forbid that they would be distracted from the importance of their screen.
Many of these crowners (for they looked like what a midwife sees at a birth, approaching hair or bald head first), were older. And yet, age or gender aside, they were not one bit concerned about the other, real people, who they were ploughing through.
I remember sitting in London with my brother a few years ago, aghast at the way people were dependent on their phones; uber, food orders, directions everything… And then our own wee country caught up. And that is both fine and terrifying, because judging by the bigger cities right now, we have a zombie society emerging. And what starts in these cities, eventually reaches us. It’s bad enough that we have to deal with dummies driving while looking at their phones. (Seriously dude, no one looks at their crotch and smiles…)
But judging by what I saw this summer, we shall soon be walking through throngs of headbutters, hunched over like question marks.
We all need our phones. We all use them more than we even realise. They are part of our culture. But when they are simply extensions of our hands, into which we place more importance than human interaction and actual physical awareness, then we have a problem. And when the only communication and words that we pay attention to are being fed by a wire into our ears, we run the risk of becoming deaf to reality.
Imagine if we all looked up? Imagine what things we would see…