You see it everywhere. People glued to their phones, thumbs swiping metronomically to a steady rhythm of around 50 bpm. I’m convinced that RSIs in the thumb are going to be the number one medical condition in 10–20 years time.
But then articles about how we all spend too much time on our phones/tablets are just as pervasive in modern society. I notice they usually say ‘I’m guilty of this too’ (or words to that effect) in an attempt to seem less hypocritical.
Are they right?
I used to nod along with these articles and think to myself ‘they’re so right. We all need to put our phones down’. But do we actually? You see, when we pass these judgements, we’re assuming that the person on their phone is mindlessly trawling through social media. Or that they should even want to engage in conversation with anyone around them at that particular moment in time.
Let me propose a scenario
You’re walking through a park and see two people sitting on the grass. They’re clearly comfortable in each other’s company without needing to speak to each other.
Each one of them is reading a book/magazine/newspaper (a real one made out of actual paper). The likelihood is that you don’t even acknowledge this situation long enough to even notice it. Let alone think ‘look at how unsociable they’re being. They should speak to each other more’.
How about this…
Now think of the same scenario, except replace that book/magazine/newspaper with a smartphone/tablet. Suddenly those articles of how we should be ‘more present’ come rushing to mind.
So on one side of the fence, we have the paper book snobs peering over their pages at the tech geeks, thinking about how unsociable they’re being. While at the same time we have the Kindler’s on the other side, feeling very smug about how their choices have less of an impact on the environment.
With overall mental health generally in decline all around the world, it is my belief that we could all be a bit more tolerant of each others choices. These kinds of judgements only serve to cause more anxiety among others.
I’m an introvert and someone who experiences social anxiety. So I speak from experience when I say how damaging it can be when someone passes negative judgement towards you because of your lack of engagement with others.
What I’m looking at
Something I try and do to prevent myself jumping to conclusions, is consider my own behaviour.
Since discovering Medium, I’m usually reading my bookmarked articles. Or I might be browsing through my monthly digital subscription to National Geographic. Maybe I’ve got an important deadline to meet and am emailing a client. Shock horror, I might even be texting my wife!
Yes, Medium is essentially social media, but I begrudge putting it in to that category. There are so many great users here, writing intelligent, informative and thought provoking articles. To put Medium alongside Facebook Instagram and Twitter would be massive injustice to its creators and contributors.
So give yourselves (and each other) a break. Spend as much time on your smartphone/tablet as you like. Read that online magazine or newspaper. Get lost in your favourite book reading app. Maybe even ask each other what you’re looking at. You never know, it might spark an interesting conversation!
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