The first thing I need to say is that I am not, nor have I ever been, a technology hater. I’m just as fascinated with the beauty of iPhones, iPads, and all other cool computer things as the next white male in Nashville. Who am I kidding—I love apple products. But I’ve realized that there’s one specific very unhealthy phone habit that I participate in on a daily basis.
The Look Down
Tired of the suspense? Me too. The really terrible thing that I do with my iPhone is use it as a crutch in awkward situations or a distraction when nothing super exciting is going on around me. I call it “The Look Down” which I don’t think needs much, if any, explanation.
The Look Down happens when I remember that I haven’t checked Twitter in six minutes and nothing that’s going on around me is incredibly fascinating. So I look down, check my phone, scroll through a couple timelines and then look back up to see if the situation has gotten any more interesting while I’ve been away. Usually after one session of staring at my palm I make myself spend a minute or two in the real world before returning to the downward staring.
It’s not just me
I was in a surprise birthday party meeting the other day and while we were all standing in a small conference room waiting for our boss to come down the hall and be wowed by our birthday surprise, I looked around and saw that literally all 25 or so of us were on our cell phones. That’s when it hit me that this lock-eyed glaze into our palms is actually something that’s quite inhibiting our ability to be human in some situations. What struck me about this situation in particular was how, instead of engaging with each other, we all chose to disappear into our own news feed or email list when there were so many interesting people in the room. It was like putting a bunch of nine year olds in a gym and giving them a dodgeball only to see them all sit down individually and play with their shoelaces.
Making a tool into a crutch
Smart phones are seriously some of the most amazing things that I’ve ever seen. It’s completely inconceivable to even imagine trying to explain them to someone even fifty years ago. Think about it.
Kidding aside, I think my smart phone is awesome and I’m not giving it up for anything, but I think I can do a better job of not making it a crutch in some situations. When I’m in a place where there are other people around whom I could be talking to, even if they’re strangers, I need to at least consider putting the phone away.
Big picture, I’m afraid we might lose some appreciation for nuance—that we’ll slowly stop noticing the way coffee shops smell or the way a friend uses his or her hands when talking. As a writer, that’s not something I can afford to do. And as a person, I don’t want to be so engaged in what’s going on around the world that I miss what’s going on in front of my face.
So my resolution is to look around me and ask myself, "is there someone here I can talk to, something here I can notice, or something to learn from?" before I jump to twitter to entertain me. It sounds easy enough so we'll see how well it works.