Recently, I jumped on a bandwagon that many others have been a part of for years, and I got my first smartphone. Up until 2015, I had managed just fine with an old-school, flip-style keyboard phone, and I actually took pride in that. I didn’t have the ability to tune out and dive into my phone at the first sign of boredom. I didn’t have social media to check up on, e-mails to check, or Skype calls to maintain. I was worried that constant access to something as daunting as the Internet would make me either dependent, or a total moron.

The key is striking a balance. Not just with your phone, but with technology in general.

Kevin O'Mara Photo CC-by Kevin O’Mara

Disconnect

Comedian Louis C.K. said it best when he described why he hated cell phones. People are afraid to be alone. In an age where we should be more connected to each other than ever before, are we really? We talk to our friends via screens, we make plans, receive invites, and trade ideas, but is it worth as much as face-to-face contact? In some instances, yes. Without technology, you wouldn’t be able to talk to or see the faces of family members half a country away, let alone half a globe. That being said, how often do we just sit and think? Call it meditation, call it yoga, call it what you will, but how often does that occur in our day-to-day lives? When’s the last time you stopped to take a breath and didn’t reach for a phone or a controller? When’s the last time you felt pangs of loneliness and didn’t practically sprint to social media to see what everyone’s doing?

Social media is a caricature of real life. Some studies have been done on this, but certain people who frequent social media have low self-esteem, because all they see is the highlight reel of their friends’ lives. It’s all the most exciting things, locations, events – none of the mundane. We need to keep ourselves occupied, because if not, we might have to get to know ourselves. We might have to stare our insecurities and anxieties in the face without any buffer or distraction. For some people, that’s more terrifying than a dependency on technology.

Marlana Zanatta Photo CC-by Marlana Zanatta

Attention, Please

One thing I hate about this conversation is codgers who blame the Internet and technology dependency on the downfalls of man. Most of these people complain about this shit via a cell phone and snarky Facebook status.

I’ve said it a million times and I’m going to keep saying it: the Internet, technology, are tools. You don’t get mad at a hammer when you hit your thumb with it (and if you do, you quickly realize how foolish that is). The key is balance. There are definitely parts of the day that require mindless meandering through something, be it video games, TV, trashy magazines, what have you. It’s nice to sometimes just turn your brain off and hit the ‘auto-pilot’ button. When this impedes connection with other people is where problems can occur. Don’t you hate it when you go out for food with friends and half of them are staring at their phones? Why? Why does that bother you?

Because you don’t have their full attention, and you feel cheated. You want to connect on a personal level, even for just a little bit, and the divvying of attention between your friends and Reddit can be frustrating. I do believe we can be present in a conversation and maintaining technology at the same time – some conversations, like the funny thing that happened to you in the elevator that day or whathaveyou, probably don’t require 100% undivided attention. I know extroverts who don’t even need conversation to feel connected or rejuvenated, they just want another human being’s presence with them. There’s nothing wrong with that.

A little management goes a long way. Turn the Twitter, FB, etc. push notifications off on your phone. You’re going to check those sites at some point during the day anyway. People get a drug-like rush when they see they’ve received notifications, and even more so of one if there are more. Wouldn’t you rather get on once a day and see a dozen notifications than micro-manage needless groups of ones, twos, and threes throughout the course of your day? Don’t be a slave to your fabricated social life. Be there for people. Don’t scramble for your phone at the first sign of a vibration.

They’ll notice, and they’ll appreciate it. Whether they say so or not.

Coniungere

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Comments
  1. tristyfishy says:

    This is something I can get behind: balance. As you well know, I’ve been struggling in that department, as my video games are all I do. I think I need to do some messing around on my phone to try to see if I can turn those off. I get WAY too many notifications. Hell, my Twitter sends me notifications of people that followed people that I follow. It’s a bit ridiculous. I’ll figure it out eventually. Maybe. #laziness

  2. Virginia Pizzi says:

    Jeff- I would love to talk to you about a freelance, comic related, writing project for IDW. I can not find your email address – would you kindly contact me at virginia@idwentertainment.com?

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