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September 10, 2019

Originally It was Just a Phone.

In theory, a smartphone should be an enabling device, but in practice it is disabling. Hyped as a useful tool for communicating ideas and accessing information, which it could be, but, in practice it is a device that forces information and ideas upon us. I can never seem to pick up my smartphone to do anything without ten other things hijacking my attention, sometimes causing me to forget why I picked it up. If I try to check the local weather, I am bombarded with hurricane news from a distant geographical location complete with morbid pictures of hapless victims, if I search for a job, I might attract a loan offer, if I want to know why my roses have a red fungus, I may get an athlete’s foot sure cure.

Smartphones do what they do so well they outsmart us. We are their slaves. Even when we have no reason in mind to pick them up, we do, and willfully allow ourselves to be teethed on whatever useless, off-topic, offering they may have. We pick them up when idle and get our fill of whatever is there like we might junk food.

Some might argue that the offerings of smartphones are useful information, so why call it “junk food” or say it is poisoning us? But this misses the point. When information is out of context, it is irrelevant. Off-topic information is a distraction and drains our energy as we try to weed through it to stay with our original intention. We want our device to serve us, rather than be overmastered by it.

I have friends who stay with flip phones to avoid the bane of the smartphone, but I think this is unnecessary and may put one at a disadvantage, like taking a horse to work while everyone else is driving. A balance can be found in smartphone use if we exercise a couple of simple disciplines. What are mine?

  • Stay on topic. Know why you picked up your smartphone and resist all temptation to be lured elsewhere. If you are calling a friend, do that. Don’t check the news, weather, or anything else. If you do, you become vulnerable to becoming sidetracked into things that may appear interesting but will leave you spent following them. Conserve your energy.
  • Ask yourself whether or not the smartphone is guiding you in a direction that fits within the context of what you picked it up for. If we are hiking to a lake on the rim of a mountain, we don’t have to look at the trails leading to the summit. Smartphones disperse information for everyone, but we are not everyone. We must be precise when we use a smartphone and stay focused only on what we need to know.
  • Don’t touch your smartphone without a clear idea why, or even look at it. The smartphone should be treated like the opposite sex. Smartphones have an attraction that makes us wish to pick them up even without any idea why. Keep it out of sight. Studies have shown that merely having a smartphone within sight diminishes our ability to focus. So keep it tucked away.
  • Go solo. Practice leaving it at home for a few hours occasionally, when not expecting any relevant need to arise. Just leaving it behind from time to time will demonstrate how dependent we are on it and how insecure we feel without it. This awareness can alert us to be more precise how we use it.
  • Minimize its use. Don’t use it just because you can. There is no need to Google every miscellaneous query that comes to mind. We are already overwhelmed with information we don’t need. Much of what we want to know is just vane musing and unnecessary. Our lives will get on just fine without finding this or that miscellaneous thing out. Ask yourself whether or not you would search a dictionary or encyclopedia to find something out before turning to Google. Learn to find comfort in not knowing.

I am sure everyone has there own ideas of smart smartphone use. Please share them in a comment. I am all ears because I feel it so much a demon in my pocket that I can hardly carry it around anymore. Originally, it was just a phone!

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