I gave each of our children, on their eighth birthday, a jackknife, together with a little sermonette that it was a tool and not a toy. Looking at all these people looking constantly at their little screens, I want to say them that they are a tool, and not a trance!
I see people out on walks in the glory of nature, fixedly looking at their little screens. I guess they are getting in their steps, but what about the other health giving properties of being out in all that marvelous photosynthesis? They missed that dragonfly I just reveled in (and yes, I took a photo of it on my iPhone, see below). How much more are they missing, all while being riveted to their little screens? Maybe they are staying in touch, but also maybe they are simultaneously getting out of touch.
Everywhere you look, where there are people, there are little screens. In toddler strollers. At restaurants, a whole family or a couple, are together, but in completely separate worlds, not talking, just engrossed on their little screens. It is much better when you see people animatedly talking, showing each other what is on their little screens.
A few months ago before lockdown, I remember passing a school bus stop, where about twenty kids were standing waiting. They were all standing together in isolation, scrolling on their phones! We actually interacted at our bus stops back in my day; it was so very old fashioned! I met my first boyfriend at that school bus stop; I went to his prom, and he went to mine. Now there are online dating services, because people don’t chat during the idle moments where people used to meet.
Make no mistake, I love my little screen too. You can see my daily interface above. This little technological helper makes my being on call all the time for my work absolutely no problem! I’ve got a camera with me all the time. I can see your photos and share mine with you. My kids video chat with me, and distance disappears. With it, I now always have a dictionary with me. It is now my watch and weather service. I keep notes and lists on it; I listen to music on it. I can read blogs and articles, or listen to audio books and podcasts on the go, wherever I am, the moment I want to. It fits in my pocket. I can message you, right to your pocket. All this is amazing and deeply appreciated. It is an incredible tool with vast potential to improve our productivity and quality of life.
But so soon and startlingly fast, these ubiquitous little screens have gained dominant prominency. How many hours a day do you spend staring at one? Our oldest daughter recently got an Apple Watch because she spent over 12 hours a day on her phone (mostly for work) and she wanted to get some distance from it. (You can check your amount of screen time on an iPhone by swiping right from your first app page and then scrolling down to the hourglass section. Check that daily and start to be aware of the amount of time you spend on the device.) We fill an increasing amount of our time looking at life through a little screen. Pretty soon most of what we experience will come through this digital filter.
Please use your smartphone only as a tool. It is here to enhance not to entrance. Lose the trance part; it should not hold your entire attention. Be in control instead of letting it take over and unwittingly mesmerize you.
How do you consciously choose behaviors that preserve living life first hand? Do your part in molding what culture will be like with these relatively new and very prevalent devices now blatantly in the mix. The path of least resistance means the loss of objective facilitation. We can’t afford that; there is too much to lose. I think it is all too common to have gone way overboard.
I’m often talking about looking beyond the material world to the ever-present spiritual one. Now I’m saying please look beyond the digital arena to at least the physical one! Don’t let the digital world replace the beauty and connection of either the physical world or the spiritual realm of your experience.
Technology is still young; these are early days. We’ll look back on these little screens as primitive. This phone can still be put away, turned off, gotten out of our sight. It is important that we choose now how technology gets integrated into our consciousness, before the contact lenses and neurodigital interfaces arrive.
Consider how you stay an objective user in control of this fabulous tool, without letting it becoming a danger or a detriment. Do you moderate your screen time? Do you enforce some rules about screens and their use?