MMM#3: Can you be phone-free?

If you’ve read my most recent posts, you will have noticed that I’ve been thinking a lot about technology and how it affects our lives. The most prominent piece of technology that many people possess is the mobile phone as it is either close by or on our person whether we are inside or outside our homes. It might even be in your pocket or within eyeshot as you read this.

The advantages to this are obviously the conveniences that a phone can provide. If you are in some kind of trouble, or lost, or need to be reached for whatever reason you can just call someone or somebody can call you. With a smart phone, you can look on the internet if you need to find something, learn about something or if you need to call somebody.

On the other hand, the disadvantages of always having a mobile phone at hand include being over-reliant on them and being consumed and distracted by their abundant features. This is particularly true with smart phones as access to the internet and apps are incredibly affective at drawing our attention. I was once so fixated on something that I was looking at on my phone that I didn’t realise someone was trying to talk to me. Although they were more amused than annoyed, I didn’t like the fact that I was so distracted and not focussed on my surroundings. Almost everybody looks stupid when they’re looking down and staring at a screen!

I’ve heard some people bemoaning the fact that they can always be reached and the lack of privacy that always having a phone at hand can bring with it. It doesn’t surprise me that some people have opted to have a so-called ‘dumb phone’ – i.e. a more traditional mobile phone that lacks the many entrancing features of a smart phone – as a way to avoid some of the downsides of new phones.

At the place I work, I often see everyone else staring at their phone screens during their breaks possibly looking at the news, websites or just going through their messages. There’s nothing wrong with doing this in moderation but I do wonder if it is detrimental if it’s done all the time.

Like I wrote in my other post about not worshipping comfort, being dependent on our phones
means that we can struggle to function without them. Always having your phone with you is another form of comfort which can inhibit your independence. To try and lessen my own dependence on my phone, I’ve started to be ‘phone-free’ by leaving it in my coat or locker on my breaks at work just to be away from it for half an hour or an hour. This is also the furthest distance I can get from it. It means I can at least attempt to find other ways to occupy my time and be ‘off-grid’ even just for a little bit.

The point isn’t to renounce phones entirely but just to manage how much time you spend on it. What initially put me off leaving my phone where I couldn’t immediately reach it was the risk of getting a missed call. I remember going out one time without taking my phone with me and then coming back to find a number of missed calls from my parents who were worried because I wasn’t answering their calls! I had only been out for a brief period but after that I took my phone everywhere with me. However, if people know your work times, I think you can afford to be phone-free for a little bit without much trouble.

There’s no denying that smart phones are an amazing technological achievement but we should appreciate the benefits and drawbacks of them more than we do. As U2 might have sung, I can’t live with or without my phone but I can least try to. I suggest you do as well.

MMM#2: Twitter is what you make of it

Although I have a Twitter account – if you’re interested, you can view it here – I try not to go on it that much and I’ve found that I don’t really miss it much when I avoid looking at it. Twitter can be interesting when there’s a big event happening such as the recent debacle in Afghanistan or the US election in 2020 and the fallout from that. You can learn a lot of things if you follow people from a variety of professions and backgrounds. Most of the people I follow are from the right-leaning or ‘anti-woke’ perspective but I also try to follow people who have the opposite point of view as it makes it more interesting.

I also have what could be called a ‘normie’ Twitter account which I keep non-political and just follow people I’m interested in outside of politics. I’ve discovered, predictably you might say, that a lot of those people have the fashionable ‘woke’ viewpoints so I’ve ended up unintentionally having two Twitter accounts reacting to events from opposite sides of the political spectrum. This was particularly fascinating during the end of last year with the controversial election loss of Donald Trump to Joe Biden. One Twitter was furious at what had happened and the other was elated at the end of Trump’s presidency. The latter is curiously silent about Joe Biden’s actions in Afghanistan though! It’s sort of like having the ability to occupy two parallel universes that experience the exact same events.

I’ve tried not to comment too much on there as you can get sucked into having debates and arguments with people who in most cases are not worth debating with. A lot of people have accused Twitter and other social media sites of causing the breakdown in nuance and civilised debate in political discourse as well as the increasing polarisation.

There is some truth in this but people also have the choice whether or not they want to engage with it in the way that they do. I’ve been tempted to comment on someone else’s tweet on many occasions but then decided against it to avoid getting into a conversation I didn’t want to have. Some things are better being done face to face or, alternatively, on a video streaming site like YouTube where you can communicate with the person directly.

Recently, I’ve taken to looking at my Twitter account on a day to day basis but I’m trying to avoid doing this so that I don’t get too obsessed with politics. On my other account, I’ve noticed that people use Twitter for things other than political discourse in ways that don’t make you angry at the state of the world – for a brief time at least – and show that there is a life outside wokeness and the ‘culture war’.

It is hard to avoid it all of course when politics is creeping into every other aspect of our life even when we want to escape from it. Maybe the answer is to just not have a Twitter account but if you do happen to have one that you use for political engagement, I recommend you use another one for non-political purposes. If nothing else, it will remind you that there are other things in life to occupy your time with.

Twitter, like life, is what you make of it.