Put Your Phone Away And Communicate! A Critique of Excessive Digital Use

Originally published at The Huffington Post

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There is a now a list of mobile phone disorders created by East Asian phycologists which includes physical and mental addictions to digital devices. There is even a “phone rehab” where people are sent to when they cannot control their addiction any longer. It is all too common to joke nowadays about how all the people sitting in groups are busy on their phones instead of actually communicating with each other. The problem is that people are detaching from each other and connecting through non-organic ways. However, it is more severe than we believe so, families, romantic and work relationships across the world are being starved of real connections.

It is true that technology is representative of our evolution and that our mobile phones are essentially extensions of our brains. There is a great video here depicting the interplay between technology and human imagination and how it allows us to experience transnational”cellphone wormholes”. But, studies do show that our increased usage of social networking is leading to higher depression rates and excessive use of phones, in particular, is linked to repeated insomnia episodes, disturbed driving abilities and destroyed sleeping patterns.

Sleep

I have to be honest, I am not a big fan of my iPhone. Most of the time uninterrupted use of my phone causes anxiety for and delayed responses in my relationships. It’s overwhelming to be constantly digitally engaged. Not looking at my phone for hours is a usual routine I have become accustomed to in order to avoid anxiety. Have you ever been away from your phone for a couple hours and wondered “wow, I really enjoyed that feeling. I don’t feel depressed anymore!”. My problem is not with mobile phones; actually I really value and treasure their use in our modern societies. My issue is with the drainage of organic interactions. We are being starved of the joy of actually sitting in front of a person, looking into their eyes and enjoying their presence. Now a simple text or email will suffice as human connection.

In romantic relationships especially, mobile phone communication is used a substitute for real discussions and debates. FaceTime is not the same as being in front of your partner holding hands, kidding, smelling each other. An argument through texting is also not an argument, you cannot hear the person’s voice, tone or emotions. When you connect with a person, it is usual protocol to be involved in the joint feeling, to show empathy and to make it clear that you understand them totally. However, when you text someone, you are under no obligation to really show any true understanding if what you’re saying can be linguistically falsified, and emotion feigned. I mean, the person is not not in front of you, you cannot read body language, behaviour or eye contact. How are you to truly understand them? This is why people usually use texts to convey bad news since they can emotionally withdraw and detach by as easy as just pressing [x] on a screen.

Now, I am not calling for a anti-mobile phone revolution by no means, but I feel that we need to value face to face, organic connections more than detached digital interactions. Technology is a tool, just like drugs, and weapons, they are a means to an end. We must stop misusing the luxury of   being able to send messages in real time, across countries, and instead cherish the value of real human bonding which can only take place through real interactions. Only in this way can our society learn how to use empathy and emotional intelligence.

Want to to tell if you are a culprit of mobile phone addiction? Run through these symptoms.

  • Feeling anxious whenever you do not have your phone in your physical possession.
  • Constantly checking the phone for new texts, coupled with the compulsion to respond immediately.
  •  Your phone just vibrated, and you felt it. Yet looking at the phone, you realize it’s a false alarm. is real, and it’s a symptom of addiction (phantom ringing disorder).
  • You’re not listening. In fact, you have no idea what the person in front of you is talking about. Why? Because you keep checking your Facebook page, tweets and texts.
  • Running to the store for 30 minutes and halfway there you realize you forgot your phone and you MUST turn around to get it.
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