‘I connect therefore I am.’
I’ve heard the phrase ‘disconnect to reconnect’ thrown around a lot lately – so much so that it seems to have become a bit of a buzzword. Whatever images it conjures up in your mind, the recent association is for going offline or living phone-free. It’s undeniable that our smartphones have become an essential part of 21st century life. Statistically speaking, we check our phones every 4.3 minutes, which equates to 81,500 times a year. Gone are the days of chatting away to friends or strangers on public transport. Instead it seems everyone has their heads down fixated on a glittering device filled with likes, pings and swipes. We scroll endlessly, eternally distracted by the here and now.
As a Generation Z representative, half of my life has been without fast-track technological connection, and the latter half has been the complete opposite. It seems inconceivable that humans have existed for generations without such technology. It’s even stranger still that twenty years ago the internet was just starting out and took forever to load a simple document. Nowadays, if anything takes longer than 30 seconds to download, we deem it broken or faulty. We’re conditioned to want more, both faster and better.
So, in light of this culture, I decided to challenge myself and spend two weeks attempting to live out the ‘disconnect to reconnect’ mantra. Admittedly, it was far easier being out in the sticks of the UK at the time. And I kept my phone on, yet logged out of all social media. A modern-day social experiment if you will.
The initial first few days were probably the hardest. I was itching to check my messages and feared I was unaware of big things happening (nothing drastic did happen, but that’s FOMO for you). I felt strangely out of touch, both in my personal life and in the grander scheme of things. However, I was increasingly more content – both in my decision and life without 24/7 connection. I no longer reached out for my phone as soon as I woke up in the morning, and I enjoyed so much more free-time away. Before long, I happily left my phone in flight-mode and mostly used it as a camera and for Spotify. I loved checking in with friends when I eventually tuned back in a few weeks later. But ultimately, even this mild detox got me thinking about how much our phones affect and control our lives.
Much has been written about the negative impact of social media – the harsh reality of seeking validation and approval via likes, comments and follows leading to increased levels of depression and anxiety. Ironically, what’s meant to connect us, leaves us feeling lonelier. Nothing makes me sadder than enjoying a meal and seeing an older couple eating, one unengaged with their head down, while their partner wistfully looks out of the window or gazes around the room. On the other hand, nothing makes me happier than watching a family or couple engage in actual, meaningful conversation. Phones have become such an integral part of culture, it’s rare that we choose to stop and reflect on their potential consequences.
Ultimately I believe phones are a great thing. I love social media. It’s incredible to be able to keep up to date with friends across the world, while simultaneously using GPS, snapping quality moments and keeping track of exercise and world news within a flash. A smartphone’s limitless opportunities creates a more interconnected world. However, a phone is not a saviour, it’s a tool. And therefore it should be used as such. Setting specific boundaries with our phones is a healthy way to stay connected without becoming dependent.
**Inspiration for this article**
- 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You – Tony Reinke
- Chapter 5 of ‘It’s Not What You Think’ – Jeff Bethke