Walking around the streets of my city, it’s almost a disease – the sickness of people being smartphone addicted.
I observe people everywhere, glued to their iPhones, whether walking down the street, sitting at a cafe, riding the bus, having drinks with friends, driving…
Leaving work from my office building in downtown San Francisco, I can look straight on the street and multiple times, it’s the same scene with different characters. I’ll look inside the car – in this instance, it’s a new silver Honda Civic with a thirty-something year old guy wearing a dark blueberry long sleeved button-up shirt, his face lit by the small screen. He smiles as he scrolls down his Facebook feed, pausing at a Buzzfeed article, then swiping upward to view the picture of a friend on a beach in Thailand, “liking” the status update of another friend who is happy that tomorrow is Friday.
The light turns green, they continue to stare at the tiny device until an annoyed driver behind them honks, prompting them to come back to reality.
We, as a nation, are progressively getting more addicted to our smartphones, feeling a rush when we pop in our inbox and find a new piece of email in it. We thrive on texts, vibrations and tweets. Besides the pleasure and validation we get when we receive message and mail (“yes, you are liked – someone retweeted the article you tweeted this morning!”), are we so afraid that we’ll miss out or become unproductive or fall behind?
Have we forgotten how to be still? Do we get bored too easily?
I had no choice but to put down my iPhone and engage with the world today when I decided to go grocery shopping in between work and going to the beginners’ improv class that I’m taking in a far corner of the city.
I had my hands full, struggling with two loaded bags in my arms plus a backpack on my shoulders, as I made my way to the class on foot. The walk was through North Beach, and night was falling. I made my way slowly through the 10 or so blocks that I needed to cover to arrive at my class, taking a stroll along the tourist attractions – the end of the line for the cable car, Ghirardelli Square, bikes to rent, inviting cafes and chain restaurants.
Nearing the end of my walk, the streets turned to a walk along the marina, giving me a generous view of the bay and Alcatraz.
The air was still, with the only noise an occasional fog horn and the panting of a handful of joggers making their ways down the street, dressed in bright neon gear, looking professional and fit. The moderate, temperate winter of San Francisco meant that the evening was cool, around 60, with a fine layer of fog which still allowed for a view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. Though near the water, San Francisco doesn’t have a strong salty smell, as we’re protected by the bay, but there the slight perfume of herb or plant, of which I couldn’t even tell you – hung in the air. It was an evening I can only describe as fresh, and I just felt… content to be experiencing the evening so vividly.
The whirling, rambunctious, tumbling thoughts in my mind slowed down as I took a moment to breathe the air, scan the distance and enjoy the journey I was taking.
Is this what we miss out on when we’re constantly occupied by our devices? Do we miss the subtleties of the world around us? How do you appreciate nature, or surroundings around you that you’re too distracted to notice?
Take a moment to reflect on your day, the interactions you’ve had. What would be different when you turn off your phone for a day? Harder said than done, but try it. Let me know what happens when you do.