There is a phenomenon I’ve been thinking about lately and feel totally powerless to tackle.
Our attachment to cell phones. Before you think this is me acting holier than thou, I’m as guilty as anyone for everything that follows.
It came to a head last night, as I was at the Aqua concert — I’ve never felt more like I’ve been transported into a different generation than at that show, it felt like 1998 all over again. It was an absolutely electric show, for all of us millennials. But that’s a story for a different day.
When Aqua cued up Barbie Girl, arguably their greatest hit, you could hardly see a hand in the air without a phone in hand recording the moment.
I get it, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Aqua in Red Deer. They likely won’t ever be here again.
Easily three-quarters of the crowd had their phones above their head, trying to record the moment, instead of enjoying it.
I’ve been guilty of this plenty of times at shows in my life, so I can’t judge. What I can say, is those videos are useless.
I have hundreds of videos on my phone going back at least 10 plus years from concerts I’ve been to and I can saw with immense confidence, none of them come close to capturing what it was like to attend the show in that moment.
They do serve as a good reminder, ‘Hey in 2016 I went to this concert or that concert’. But beyond that, you will literally never watch that video again.
Maybe it was the pandemic and the absence of concerts, but when I first went back to a show I consciously tried to simply enjoy the moment. I captured a few snippets of the show here and there, but overall kept my phone mostly planted in my pocket.
I’m sure one day when I have kids they’ll hit me with the pictures or it didn’t happen meme. But at the stage I’m at in life, I really feel it’s important to soak up the moment and be present. Your phone takes you out of that experience. It distracts you from immersing yourself in the experience.
And our phones have become an everyday distraction to daily life.
Every time I get in the passenger seat of the car, my phone immediately comes out of my pocket as if I need to respond to a life or death email or text. But no, I bounce between Twitter and Instagram, scrolling for a laugh or something ridiculous to pass the time.
It’s the same in lines waiting for things. My phone comes out so I don’t have to socialize, so I look busy or otherwise occupied.
Watching TV now, I’ll have my phone out, reading articles and not overly “watching” whatever we have on at the time.
There are even stories about Hollywood executives pushing shows that make great background noise and aren’t too immersive, because heaven forbid it would steal us from our precious devices. I’m guilty of this, rewatching shows where I know what happens, only so I can sit on my phone and not really watch.
Even at dinner, my phone makes it’s way onto the table. For no reason at all. There’s nothing coming and even if there is, it can surely wait until I’m finished dinner with my family.
Even the bathroom! There is absolutely no need for a phone to come into the bathroom. We survived just fine before phones with Reader’s Digest, Bathroom joke books or whatever else sat in the magazine basket in the bathroom.
It’s a crutch and I’m a 30-something-year-old man who should know better. I can’t imagine what this is doing to our youth, who are more attached to their phone than any other generation. They barely know the meaning of unplugging.
I coached a volleyball team of teenagers earlier this year and at tournaments, in between games, all of them glued to their phones. Nonstop.
Even in my generation, when the internet moved from dial-up to high speed, computer time went through the roof. We were glued to the screen from the moment we got home from school. Video games did the same thing. And I guess we didn’t turn out all that bad?
I realize some of this sounds like the old man, yelling at kids about “back in my day…”. That’s not my intention. This is a problem we are all coping with together because nobody is immune.
And as I write this, I realize more and more how all encompassing this addiction to our devices is.
For me, I have found one small victory over my phone.
My one sanctuary from my devices and this has been a game changer for me, is the bedroom.
I don’t bring my phone into the bedroom at night, I charge it in the kitchen. I read before I go to sleep at least 15 minutes. We don’t have a TV in our room, no laptops either.
This has been a change only in about the last four years and it has made a noticeable difference in my sleep.
For some reason, with my phone in the other room, I’m not thinking about all the things I’m missing out on or worrying about what mind-numbing content I could see if I had it.
This usually coincides with a 20-minute mindless scroll before I call it a night, but I would still say I’ve made some progress.
My other victory is turning the majority of notifications off on my phone. If I really want to see what is going on, I have to open it up. Nothing on the lock screen. It works, kind of, but I’m so attached that I will open and find nothing and still find a reason to scroll or read. Just for something to do.
Subconsciously, I think we’re all a little scared to be alone with our own thoughts these days so what better way to distract us than that than unfettered access to unlimited information?
There is no easy fix, even if the solution is obvious. Less screen time is better for you. More human interaction is the key. Being engaged in that interaction and not distracted by a device is ideal.
We’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole, it’s not an easy or overnight fix to this sort of addiction.
I think all of us could be well served to spend a little less time on our devices. That’s my challenge to you.
Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.