Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mindfulness and the Smart Phone

I've been having interesting conversations with people about their cell phones.  Do we need to text to keep in touch with students?  But if we text, do we get to keep a record?

And then there are the larger issues.  Do we ever disconnect these days?

In this interesting essay, Andrew Sullivan posits that it's not the Internet that is so damaging, but our constant access of it:  "Facebook soon gave everyone the equivalent of their own blog and their own audience. More and more people got a smartphone — connecting them instantly to a deluge of febrile content, forcing them to cull and absorb and assimilate the online torrent as relentlessly as I had once. Twitter emerged as a form of instant blogging of microthoughts. Users were as addicted to the feedback as I had long been — and even more prolific. Then the apps descended, like the rain, to inundate what was left of our free time. It was ubiquitous now, this virtual living, this never-stopping, this always-updating."

Long ago, when I first taught the Scriptwriting for Games class, we had a fascinating conversation about what's real life and what's online life (and this was in the last days of the pre-smart phone era).  Most of my students were spending over 6 hours a day in the world of a game--if that was the case, I said, perhaps the game life was real life and everything else wasn't.

At least those gamers were in one consistent game world.  These days, our online lives are much more fragmented, as we zip from site to site, from task to task.

Sullivan talks about the danger of the bifurcated life:  "I’d long treated my online life as a supplement to my real life, an add-on, as it were. Yes, I spent many hours communicating with others as a disembodied voice, but my real life and body were still here. But then I began to realize, as my health and happiness deteriorated, that this was not a both-and kind of situation. It was either-or. Every hour I spent online was not spent in the physical world. Every minute I was engrossed in a virtual interaction I was not involved in a human encounter. Every second absorbed in some trivia was a second less for any form of reflection, or calm, or spirituality. “Multitasking” was a mirage. This was a zero-sum question. I either lived as a voice online or I lived as a human being in the world that humans had lived in since the beginning of time."

I continue to resist the siren song of the smart phone.  While I confess it would be convenient at times, I want to have down time.  So many people don't even seem to notice how often they're checking their phones.  I can tell that I would be one of those people, always checking, always zipping.

I'm worn to a frazzle now, even without a smart phone always summoning my attention elsewhere.  Let me be careful about what and whom I invite into my life--let those new elements support mindfulness, not detract from it.


ren powell said...

I just handed over my Facebook password (again) yesterday. Then I spent an hour writing a blog post about my addiction. Then realised that I have an app on my phone that lets me check the "traffic" to my silly, little blog.

I bought this particular smartphone because of the incredibly (and small) camera that I take on runs. Running is probably the only place I absolutely do not multi-task. But I stop now and then to take a picture. I considered buying a new phone with nothing but calls and sms. And a separate camera. But then I remembered that I have all my contact with my kids via messenger. Trapped?

Don't go there. I am still looking for a way out. It helps knowing there is someone who is resisting.

Kristin said...

Thanks for your comment! I often feel like I'm the last person in the industrialized world who refuses to get a smart phone, who has a flip model cell phone kept in the car in case of emergency. It's good to know that others wrestle with these issues too.