New research out shows that smart phones can affect physical and mental health and people are shouting out about it. Workshops to detox are on the rise, psychologists are giving dire warnings about the increase in anxiety, depression and suicide, especially amongst young people – the new IGEN. The articles are interesting, eye opening and worth reading but I thought I’d add my few cents worth to a phenomenon I find very disturbing.
I was resistant to the idea of a smart phone until two years ago mainly because I don’t like touch screen keyboards. When I accidently gave my dying Blackberry a spin in the washing machine, I gave in and bought a Samsung mini Galaxy. Small, neat, lightweight, simple. A simple ring tone, a few Apps, connect up the email and sufficient until the day…. Well that day has come.
Every ping announcing the arrival of some piece of information that’s not going to make one iota of difference to my life other than emails relating to my writing was having an effect on my concentration. I started to get twitchy and imagined I could hear the ping every few minutes.
To conquer this behaviour, I turned it off during my writing hours but my mind kept straying, wondering if I was missing out. I think younger people call this FOMO ( fear of missing out).
My next strategy was to shove it under the mattress using the out of sight out of mind principle. That worked for about two hours, providing I was deep into my imaginary life where eyes still met over coffee and people used telephone boxes or wrote letters in beautiful flowing script to declare love or condolences.
Living in Malvern with a huge hill behind the cottage means that reception can be intermittent. Calls get cut off and text messages stay in the outbox until I can stand on the low wall in the courtyard and wave the phone about. ‘Go damn you,’ my American neighbour heard me say one morning, as he watched me wave my device in the air. ‘You’re addicted,’ he laughed, stubbing out his cigarette.
His words plucked a chord and for a few days I turned off the phone all together. After all, I have a landline, a laptop and a tablet. It felt alright. In fact it felt brilliant. My sleep was better, I now do yoga in the mornings instead of checking my phone and I get a renewed sense of what my life used to be like back in the 1970s. It’s liberating.
So what lies behind drastic decision to actually get rid of my smart phone? Some might speculate that I can no longer cope with the acceleration of technology now that I am post 60 and from a dinosaur era. Others may think I’m ill or having a breakdown. Quite the opposite in fact. I’m enlightened or should I say I’ve got my marbles back since I was against the idea of the smart phone in the first place, realising as a behavioural specialist where this might lead. Research coming out is proving my initial fears to be true.
So what are my top reasons for saying goodbye to my smart phone?
My eyes are sore and are at risk of being damaged so says my optician. I don’t have 20/20 vision – in fact I have one functioning eye and I’d like to keep it. Extensive exposure to blue violet light is toxic and can potentially damage the back of the eyes. It affects sleep patterns and moods.
Smart phone users wandering through busy streets staring at their screens are in danger of having an accident. I’ve found myself stopping in the middle of the pavement for someone to walk round me then they give me a mouthful because I interrupted their browsing for one second.
I used my brick-sized mobile to connect with family back in the eighties and can’t remember any examples where it was used for work until I was going to be late for something. It was a phone for heaven’s sake not a walking office. It knew its place. Now, smart phones connect us to everything from a virtual learning environment to porn and on line gaming where children can be drawn into a vortex of unpoliced, unsupervised connections and adults can experience painful withdrawal symptoms when they are without their phones for five minutes. I’ve seen panic behaviours exhibited in some of the most rational and controlled people.
What really pushed me over the edge was when I went into a restaurant last Friday and sat near a family of five, all of whom were scrolling, swiping or stabbing on their devices. No communication apart from the odd grunt, no eye contact, no bonding or connection. Even the toddler was sucking on a plastic toy mobile. I watched this scenario play out when their meals arrived. Fingers wrapped around chips but eyes stayed firmly on the screen. No more to say really is there other than it made my stomach turn. Loneliness, isolation, inability to exchange ideas in more than a line at a time..... is this the future of society?
Nokia must have seen this coming. I loved my 3310. It did everything I needed to do – phone, text, a fabulous radio and a camera. Iconic, classic and comforting. Thank you Nokia for being ahead of the times. I’m off to buy mine today. Love retro but then I came of age in 1974. J