I’ve been thinking a lot about how our phones exacerbate the individualized, self-centred culture we’re in right now. Ah, what a time to be alive!
Get ready for this one…
Numerous studies say we spend anywhere from 3–6 hours (sometimes more) on our phones a day. A study by emarketer found that the average American spends 3 hours and 43 minutes a day on their phone. Another study of 2,000 people, by ProVision Living, found that Americans (as a mean of Baby Boomers and Millennials) spend an average of 5.4 hours a day on their phone. And the bulk of this usage is attributed to social media — Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Tik Tok, etc. This extensive usage of our phones is essentially re-routing our world and our perception, inwards.
It’s hard not to see the physical effects, when we sit, alone, tapping our fingers away at a little glowing rock. We sit there, hunched over — trapped in our own little world — with our eyes and mind incessantly chasing the figurative carrot to no end.
It’s hard not to see the physical effects, when we sit, alone, tapping our fingers away at a little glowing rock.
However, it’s harder to recognize the individualism in a deeper sense. Since, from a high level, it seems like our phones connect us to the world. In a split-second we can donate to any cause, email (or Slack message) a colleague an idea, or connect with our long-lost cousin. In this way, instead of isolating and individualizing us, our phones connect us. While I think it’s true that our phones enable these kinds of interactions, I also think that the majority of the time we spend on them today has the opposite effect. Our phones are disconnecting us.
Phones are making us more selfish than selfless. Our phones have become highly optimized, little dopamine-driving machines. Whatever need, want or wish our monkey mind might be craving, our phone can meet it, instantly. Whether that be the need to feel more socially validated, the need to feel less alone, the answer to any question we’ve ever asked, or a boost of self-image… all of these desires can be met by our phones.
What this means is that we are relieved over and over and over again. And anyone who’s ever experienced or read about addiction knows that this is a very dangerous cycle. This is instant gratification, it’s highly addictive, and it’s more socially acceptable than alcoholism. This is excessive, dependent phone use. And ultimately, it’s making us more self-centred because it’s all about me, mine, want, wish, need.
This is instant gratification, it’s highly addictive, and it’s more socially acceptable than alcoholism.
How do I compare to others? How do I look in this photo? How do I achieve this? How to I impress this person? How do I get more likes? How do fill the gap in my empty soul? It all sounds pathetic, but it’s real. The more time we spend on our phones feeding our minds with excess, the less time we spend with our souls (our spirits, our being, whatever…). And the more time we live in disconnect.
Real connection, real selflessness, comes from connecting with the real world and real people. Our phones can be a gateway to these things. But, they are also a gateway to an addictive spiral, and it can be a very fine line.
It’s time to stop minimizing the fact that this is a serious addiction. The whole world is addicted — not to mention, our kids are growing up on this drug. When the wifi signal lights up, or the LTE is firing, so is the consequent stream of biochemical hits and rewards. Addictions are born to fill the holes in ourselves. Addictions train us to be increasingly self-centred and driven by our immediate desires. And addictions, like the addiction to our phone, take us away from where we could be living and giving.
And addictions, like the addiction to our phone, take us away from where we could be living and giving.
Do you agree? Do you think your phone use is making your more selfish and less selfless?