December 13, 2013

Buying a Smart Phone? Think Again. ~ Hannah-Marie Martin

I have lost count of the family members, loved ones and friends that I have been having face-to-face conversations with, after having not seen them often for months, and feeling that sinking feeling when they pull out their phone mid-chat.

I am not criticizing these people. I would surely be the same if I had one, which is why I don’t.

I feel sorry for my kids when they are telling one of their stories about the bird at the park and the person they are talking to checks their iPhone. My heart bleeds for them. What message are they getting? That this story that meant the world to them is really not that important after all?

A Wall Street Journal article published in May, entitled “Just Look Me In The Eye Already,” discussed how technology use has affected our decline in eye contact—and the negative effect that reducing eye contact during conversations can have on our relationships.

I understand that time seems so much shorter now than when I was 13. Anything that saves me time is a blessing.  I have an iPad (I was reluctant to get) and this laptop. Facebook bleeps all day long and I think Facebook is the opposite to mindfulness. Someone with the attention-span I have loves Facebook: “Aah look at that picture, oh a friend request, or, a message from a friend that I must reply to right now.”

Jeepers. Hours can be lost.

But when I leave the house it is like, ahhh. All that is now left behind. If someone really needs me, my mobile might sometimes be on. But all that bleeping and nonsense is largely left at home.

Daniel Sieberg, author of “The Digital Diet: The Four-Step Plan To Break Your Tech Addiction And Regain Balance In Your Life,” told The Huffington Post:

“Eye contact can be especially meaningful in today’s world of constant partial attention and it conveys a sentiment that the person you’re with matters. Taking that extra time when possible can really yield benefits with face-to-face interaction.”

To be honest, it is not just the smartphones. I was disappointed recently when spending a short time with an older relative (who had just got the hang of texting), that they spent an awful lot of their short time with my kids, texting other members of the family.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

~ Blaise Pascal, Pensées

This sums up how humanity is being served by some technologies. To me they may be heading us collectively in the wrong direction. Escapism from what is happening right now only brings temporary satisfaction or relief from discomfort, which will inevitably lead to a deeper feeling of sadness or emptiness.

A little bleep or text is exciting and virtually impossible to resist checking or responding to. This is similar to when sitting in meditation and a fly lands on you or an itch needs scratching. The mind’s habitual response is to react. And that is the opposite of mindful, or enlightened, behaviour.

Technology may well make things easier, but why are people only busier than in the countries I have lived in without dishwashers, washing machines and other time-saving electronic devices? And what price are we paying, for ourselves and our children? What lessons are we teaching them?

For me, every new device that comes into our home is like another member of the family: demanding it’s own portion of time, attention and maintenance. I think that should be considered and weighed up against it’s ‘time saving potential’.

For example, we just moved into a new flat. We begged the landlord for a dishwasher, as we fill it every day and for me it is quicker and more efficient for me to use. Plus, I had become quite dependent on it! The flipping thing has been broken more often than not. It has flooded the flat, necessitated rushing home to let in delivery men, repair men, the landlord. It is now back from it’s two week stay at the repair shop, and still as broken as before.

Not to mention, the arguments that have centered around it (misunderstandings about who was supposed to call the landlord, who should have turned the stop-cock off, etc). Blimey.

I had planned to write this post weeks ago, but there is an irony writing a post about too much time using technology, when I should really be engaging with my kids, or out observing nature, or doing housework so that when they wake I can take them out to observe nature (they are napping right now).

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Assistant Editor: Miciah Bennett/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives


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