Mobile Phones and Over-Connectivity
The other day I found myself at Four Points by Sheraton having a drink with a friend, only to look over at another table to find three customers sitting with their eyes glued to their screens. I thought about mentioning how unsociable this habit was to my friend, then I realized we had gone past that as a society. In fact, people don’t have to ask to be excused to use their phones at social gatherings anymore. It has become so widely accepted as appropriate social behavior, that if you spend a whole evening with someone and don’t reach for your phone, they actually ask, “You aren’t a phone person”?
On the surface, it appears like our addictions to these devices are only detrimental to those around us, forced to compromise with managing our split attention. But on closer inspection, we too have so much to lose. Personally, I look forward to flying, just for those peaceful hours of switching off from the rest of the world. Dare I say it— I do not look forward to the arrival of in-flight wi-fi. Scientifically, it has been shown that our brains react with increased levels of oxytocin and dopamine when we are alerted about a message on our phone or computers. While both are generally viewed as pleasant hormones, they also carry an inherent danger of causing addiction, which explains why most of us cannot go for so long without checking our phones for notifications. When an action begins to cause physiological changes in our body, which can distress us in its absence, it isn’t far fetched to liken it to an addiction, like we see with cigarettes and other such substances. I’m sure most of you know people who would go through the day with significantly increased amount of stress if they happened to forget their phone at home.
As if the bio-chemical reactions to phones weren’t bad enough, there is also the paradoxical fear of missing out (FOMO), to contend with. With so much happening in cyberspace, it is understandable why we might feel rather out of touch with the world if we stayed out of it for quite sometime. The paradox is that when we find ourselves in situations that feel a bit boring, instead of putting in the required effort to make it entertaining for ourselves and others, we are more likely to throw in the towel and get on our phones. This way, we also miss out on what the gathering might have been if we did not have the option of being distracted by our devices.
The nature of 21st century living makes the use of phones in our everyday lives a necessity to facilitate working, social, and even romantic relationships. But that is not to say we have to let it become toxic to our mental state. An awareness of the dangers that lie with our continuous dependence on mobile phones is important if we hope to stand a chance at managing an already damaging social norm.
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