There is something so devastating about walking around in a crowd of people today. Whenever I look, wherever I am—in a restaurant, in the bookstore, in a coffee shop—I see people on their phones. No one is talking, no one is moving, no one is even acknowledging the existence of the person standing next to them. And especially, it seems, no one is actively trying to better him or herself.
On each small rectangular screen, I can see images of social media loading, text messages sending, videos buffering. Occasionally, I see a news article scrolling across the screen, but that is very rare. Mostly, people are trying to connect with people… by not connecting with people. Walk into a Starbucks, mall, restaurant, or any other general “gathering place” for humans. Most of what you see are isolated people—or isolated groups of people—sitting on their phones, not interacting with anyone else.
Now, I am not saying that alone time isn’t the most amazing time ever now and again. I myself need alone time, probably more than your average 22-year-old girl. I need to be by myself, sometimes in my house, and sometimes in a large group of people whom I don’t know or have any connection with. It’s just fun and relaxing for me. However, when it comes to alone time, is it really alone if you’re spending it on your phone, talking to people and/or interacting through social media? Are you really getting anything from this experience, if you’re not allowing yourself to separate—if only for a few hours—from the lure of The Magical Shiny Rectangle?
My answer is, no, you’re really not. I understand the occasional text that needs to be sent to your husband about what time he should expect you home, and the short call to your mom about the dress you saw in a store that looked just like her. But to spend the entire time that was supposed to be dedicated to you in some way—or maybe it was even just a small break from class or work—on the phone, without any thought to your well-being or your mental and emotional state? That’s incredibly unhealthy, to me.
I always make a point, whenever I am out in public, or even by myself, to either spend the time talking to people (because that is definitely important, as well), or to spend the time for myself, doing what I want or need to do. Now, I believe that there is a happy medium between these two activities. To be isolated all the time, with no interaction (human or otherwise) would be just as bad as never taking the time for oneself to evaluate.
So next time you’re out and about, getting groceries by yourself, going shopping with your daughter, or downtown with your friends, be aware of how much time you waste on your phone. Is it necessary for The Magical Shiny Rectangle to obscure the sights in front of you? Wouldn’t you rather relax by yourself, think about your day, and plan how the next one is going to be even better? Or have a meaningful conversation with your daughter, about her life and yours? Or laugh with your friends, and feel content to be with them, and not with all the hundreds of anonymous followers you have on social media?
Life can be so much more fulfilling if we use the things we’ve been giving as tools to make our lives stronger, rather than crutches to make us weaker.