Picture a smartphone user looking up resentfully from their phone as they’re seconds from bumping into you on the street. See the disconnection in their eyes.
Whatever they’re engrossed in, it has nothing to do with your wellbeing. Not even their wellbeing comes first at times.
We’ve all seen smartphone users staring obliviously at their phones while crossing busy roads. It is a form of addiction when our physical wellbeing comes second to our need to stare at our phones.
Increased Aches and Pains
The increase in neck strain, backaches, and sore and dry eyes is a testament to this, as seen by the condition dubbed Text Neck. But actively placing yourself in harm’s way is on a whole other level of addiction.
Meriam-Webster defines addiction as:
“A compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms upon withdrawal or abstinence.”
The average smartphone user can display symptoms of anxiety or irritability if they don’t have access to their phones. How much more so then, with those who rarely lookup from their smartphones at all?
Addictions arise out of feelings of compulsion and a strong desire to escape from boredom, pain, or stress. Yet beneath these urges is a deeper desire. A desire to feel connected, understood and valued.
Social Media Addiction
Access to the internet and the potential it brings to connect us with people from all over the world creates compulsive behaviour. You can spend hours a day on social media, feeling as if you’re connecting, but more often than not, the connections are superficial.
When we connect with a clear intention and with purpose, our connections tend to feel more authentic. Whereas, when we connect mindlessly, out of habit and routine, our connections suffer. This is true whether we’re on, or off, the internet.
It is the habitual nature of going to Google Play for yet another App, or endlessly surfing Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, that can cause us to feel disconnected from those around us. Sometimes we’re so busy engaging online that we lose our ability to engage in person.
For the smartphone addict, it is all about habitual behaviour.
A brief moment of boredom, pick up your phone. Sitting on public transport, pick up your phone. A lull in the conversation, pick up your phone.
Feeling angry with your spouse, pick up your phone. Avoid a difficult conversation, pick up your phone. Walking along the street, stare at your phone.
The smartphone becomes the hit, the fix. It can take you away from your immediate problems, just like that. It can whisk you away to exotic places, or entertain you with limitless games.
It can improve your knowledge and answer your burning questions. It gives you access to celebrities or CEO’s. It relaxes you and soothes you when needed. And all you have to do is keep it updated and charged up.
Humans are complex and complicated
Human interactions require much more effort. If only we could update each other periodically, to get the best results! How much simpler would our lives become?
That however, is the point. Human interactions can be messy. They can be complicated, and require mutual giving and receiving.
We don’t always get along, and sometimes we bore each other to tears. We look different from one another and act differently too. We’re either unpredictable or too predictable, in equal measure. We agree and disagree on so many things.
And yet when we show each other care and kindness and acknowledge each other’s presence even briefly, we feel a sense of connection. A simple nod of recognition says: I see you and you matter.
Your smartphone can be the means to engage in this way, or more often than not, be the means to avoid true connection.
When we pay attention to what we’re doing and who it’s impacting in our immediate surroundings, it makes a big difference. When our smartphone precludes us from engaging in such basic ways, then we’re well on the way to feeling lost in the age of the smartphone.
Despite our increased ability to connect, feelings of loneliness and isolation are on the rise due to social media.* We’re so busy avoiding feelings of loneliness and isolation with our endless scrolling, that we become more lonely and isolated as a result.
The correlation between increased smartphone use and greater feelings of disconnection cannot be ignored. So next time you feel tempted to mindlessly pick up, or stare at your smartphone, know that it might be the very thing causing you to miss out on an authentic human interaction.
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