On smartphones

Two weeks ago I linked to an article by Eitan Chitayat on Quartz. The article is a documentation of Chitayat‘s week without a smartphone. But one thing was particularly impressive. He wrote:

There were six individuals sitting down. One on his laptop, the other five all staring at their smartphones. Not one person had their head up. What’s the point of weaning me off this thing so I can enjoy looking around me when all I see are other addicts all looking into their iPhones? It’s a bloody epidemic.

This is something I’ve realized during my commutes, now that I don‘t look at my timelines anymore but instead read a book or gaze out of the window: everyone is looking at their fucking phone. It doesn‘t matter if they are waiting for the train or sitting in one, a not so tiny rectangle illuminates their face. And they all do the same. They check their messengers, their snapchats, their instagrams and their facebooks. It‘s one continuous loop, if they reach the end they start anew. I‘m not unguilty now that I barely use my phone to and from work. I am still glued to my screens, be it at home or work. Hence my phone is the first thing I pick up after waking up.

Now if people use their smartphones when on their own and thus miss the beauty of the universe, I couldn‘t care less. What annoys the shit out of me is when people are in companionship and can‘t keep their androids and iphones in their pockets for five minutes. How often have I seen friends sitting next to each other not speaking except when they found a funny cat video on Facebook and want to share it. How often did I talk to someone who, probably without realizing it, didn‘t even listen because they were furiously typing a message to someone? What makes it even worse is that people that are talking, that are not looking at screens are considered an annoyance because they won‘t shut up.

But the pinnacle of shitty behavior is during lunch when while eating they need to check that one critical mail or text message. Just one quick fix, one minute, that‘s all they need. Every five minutes. I even catch myself doing that.

I do believe that smartphone addiction is genuine. We maybe won‘t call it that way and will, of course, say that we don‘t have a problem and we can stop using the phone right here, right now. Look I even show you. But try not to use it for an hour. Try 30 minutes. Or maybe even ten without suffering. And don’t replace them with anything else, be it digital or analog. I fucking can‘t. That‘s why I finished 15 books in a few months. Instead of reading timelines, I read prose. Though at least books are most of the time more meaningful than the Twitter. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

I don‘t have a global solution to this. I don‘t even know what I could do myself to get rid of my impulses. Frankly, I don‘t even believe that the device in itself is the problem. There is nothing wrong about using a phone if you use it to take a picture of your child or write your next blog post like I am doing right now. It‘s the passive usage, the replacement of boredom that I believe to be a problem.

So, what can we do? What can I do? I have some ideas that I‘d like to try and see if anything sticks. But before I have to understand when my usage is bothering me. And it‘s mainly when I wake up, when I am bored, when I eat or when in companionship with people be it at a café or their home.

  • The most challenging part is boredom. I know of every advantage of being bored thanks to all the books I read, but I barely am anymore. As a child, I kept saying it a lot to my mother and then went on to create something. Nowadays? Naha. I am even scared of boredom and don‘t know anymore what it is like to be lost in my head. So how do I fix that? Probably the only solution here is to force me and to get through the pain. Stop. Doing. Shit!
  • My phone is my alarm clock is my remote to turn on lights at home. But that makes it too easy to grab it immediately after waking up and bring it to the bathroom. Maybe it‘s about damn time I get either an old ass alarm clock or perhaps even something more intelligent that can talk to my Hue bulbs. Circa is one contender I like, but it‘s not a real product yet.
  • When in companion with people, be it at a café or during lunch, I will try not to touch my phone at all. I don‘t even want to take it out of my pockets. Because, to me, that shows that my interlocutor is less important than my phone.
  • I don‘t use Facebook and have no Instagram account. I get my timeline-fix through Reddit and Twitter. And while I like to pretend that it doesn‘t affect me, I don‘t believe it myself. So there is really but one solution, I am currently considering: Delete the apps from my phone and only use them, when I am on my iPad. And I only use my iPad at work or from time to time at home.
  • And if all my solutions don‘t work, there is one last step to curb my smartphone usage: get rid of it. And maybe get some dumbphone after all, or even better, have a look at the way too expensive Lightphone.

I don‘t know what will work and what won‘t. Let‘s see how that goes.