Once, I started with an idea so people can be more conscious with their cell phones.
Now, close your eyes (but keep reading) and imagine yourself in my situation: In 2018, I entered this hostel lobby in Vietnam and then time stretched like chewing gum... In that slow-moving instance I saw all these hostel guests like they were glued to their phones and I simply couldn't see it no different!
An excerpt from my beloved diary:
Somewhere, deep inside of me, there was this expectation, a kind of inscription, like a code on my DNS providing commonsense knowledge, that travelling human beings want to get to know each other, that they want to be close to each other. Instead I found them only watching screens and they smirked while doing so, slowly chewing their Pho, holding their phones, not appearing to be in contact with the real world. The colorful statements about multicultural encounters, altruism and mindfulness... they were placed throughout the hostel… they seemed like an infinite joke.
It was a joke, wasn't it? How dependent were those who constantly ran around with their devices like a self-protection or gun they carry? I found it very disappointing. Now, should I pull my fellows out of their unconscious patterns and how am I able to achieve this? Why do they hide? Why are they afraid of intimacy with each other? Can they only be intimate with their phones? So, they sat there. Next to and across each other, holding plastics, metal and electro chips right in front of their faces. At that time, I didn’t know that the more pressing problem was not intimacy with others but one specific kind of intimacy with themselves, the same one that was lacking in me, too...
I started travelling in 2010, when the smartphone was still fresh. Many travellers owned brick phones. I used to walk into hostel lobbies to meet strangers and talk to them without any virtual bricks in between. It was fairly easy to approach them with a feeling of being welcome into their personal sphere and vice verca. Many times, the next conversation was already waiting around a real concrete corner. I enjoyed the feeling and didn’t only miss being connected in such ways when I was in Vietnam. I kept encountering this phenomenon more and more throughout my ten years of travelling.
From my hostel experience I learnt a few important things. First, I all too quickly blamed the smartphone for being distracting, addictive and ultimately giving me a hard time to socialize. Second, the fact quickly evaded me that I used my smartphone on a daily basis while making use of all its benefits. So, this is exactly the dilemma that many of us are facing.
We blame our smartphones and at the same time reap the benefits of it. We hate it and we love it.
Few of us are able to acknowledge that toxic love-hate relationship after exchanging wedding vows. But I truly believe we all could be more aware of how we deal with our married ones. I am 100% sure that our observations and intuitions are not flawed. The research that I find and the feedback that I get keeps confirming it: The smartphone has been the first powerful psychological shield. One that is keeping us safe - on the other hand hexing us into loneliness. We smartphone ourselves into isolation. It’s easy to get in and much harder to get out. Let me suggest a remedy: Become aware of the moment you pull out your phone next time. Then ask yourself one simple question: "What motivated me to focus on a phone?"
Before I started working on Smagotcha, I took care that, from time to time, I enjoyed liberty from my device. So, I bought a paper calendar or a basic alarm clock so I could leave my phone outside of my room during nights. Some time later, I realized how much more convenient my calendar and alarm clock apps were. Later, when I was already in the midst of my project, I could see myself being pulled into it more and more: On top of smartphone-organizing my private life, I had to smartphone-navigate an ever growing online team. I felt like I became quite addicted to it.
What for, again?
To make people more aware smartphone users.
I believe that our phones are great tools. But they are ubiquitous and can be demanding. They may be glued to us and they may have a will of their own. The smartphone wasn’t the first challenge and chance in our digital lives. It might be replaced in the future with new tools such as facebook's "Metaverse" lining up for us to turn us into either masters or slaves of digital citizens.
For me mindfulness and tech belong together if we want to start healthy relationships and become self-governed masters of digital worlds.