The Closest Thing I Have to a Relationship is With My iPhone
I made up a game that I play on the subway: I challenge myself to spot the one person around who is not on their phone. It’s called Where’s Wally 2.0.
Any eye contact in a public space comes as a surprise nowadays. People will glance back in our direction while keeping a steady eye on their phone. Then again our phone is our bank, our mom, our college girlfriends, our lunch order, and our news outlet, all at once...We sleep next to it, cradle it in our hands, guard it with our life, and smile at it intently. It makes us feel full! It makes us feel loved! It reminds us to pay our bills and pick up our laundry! It makes us feel connected both to those we know and to those we don’t.
By being so absorbed in our virtual lives, we forget about our actual life. When is the last time you exchanged more than a timid “hey” with your neighbor? Mmmh, yea, don’t fool yourself. In the article “The Blindness of Social Wealth,” David Brooks details the isolation that has resulted from people being increasingly connected online. “More and more Americans are socially poor,” Brooks says, and by socially poor he means lonely and invisible.
Why is that? Because the ultimate goal of every new app on the market is to extract us from our daily lives and generate, yet another time-consuming habit on our devices... We all feed into these temptations to a certain degree. But those of us who don’t have as strong of a social network or live in the anonymity and solitude of large cities suffer from it the most. When you’re feeling lonely and depressed, it’s easier to seek some sense of belonging or external validation online than it is offline - and the cycle ensues...
Technology has given us a multitude of useful shortcuts in recent years. And as much as we can’t say we dislike being able to cash a check on our phones, all these shortcuts are limiting us from real life experiences one at a time. We fall into these patterns without realizing which behavioral effects they have on the way we live, interact, and even speak. Tech terms become our most used verbs. “ Hey, I just slacked you,” “We ubered,” “He DM’ed me”... Our comfort zone is when our head is tilted forwards, our eyes gaze downwards and our thumbs meet on our screen.
We love the convenience, the immediacy and the options. But tech needs to rethink how it conceives things. Apps and social media platforms need to become outlets to engage with people in real life, gateways to meeting in person. And we need to redesign our reality and stop letting the notifications on our phones regulate the beat of our heart.
Trade the immediacy of Uber Eats and go chat with the owner of the deli down the street while he makes your sandwich. Put your phone away and pound the fist of a breakdancer on the subway. We guarantee it’s these small things that make you feel alive.