Put Down The Phone And Look At The Real World

Published: Oct 13, 2022  |  

Executive Editor

First of all, let’s get the irony out of the way. You’re either looking at this through a phone, tablet, or laptop. And you’ve been asked to click through to this via some form of social media. I know, it’s fine.

I took inspiration for this article in light of some recent experience in my life and felt it was my moral duty as an upstanding citizen and quite frankly—a (self-proclaimed) pillar of the community—to share with anyone who is willing to listen. I don’t intend to tell you what to do, but simply to share my thoughts. Take away what you will. 

In 2022 the average use for an adult on social media was 147 minutes per day. To put this into context…that’s a lot. It’s nearly 2.5 hours out of the 24 we are allotted. It’s nearly the length of The Godfather. Of course this number does not apply to everyone. And, depending on how you use your phone or tablet it could be argued that screen time is more a matter of practicality than of social media hypnosis. However, you can’t help but feel it’s a number creeping upward for the majority of adults. Don’t even get me started on teens.

Most iPhone users will get that weekly report that will notify you of your average screen time, for some, this extends past social media to TV and films depending on commutes, job roles, and the like. It can be worrying how much time we actually commit to phones and tablets. Probably more so since the pandemic.

Now for me, as a former Head of Social Media for various brands and outlets (I know, get me) it wasn’t something I was aware of, at least it never bothered me. Screen time might have been high but I always rationalized \or justified the reason behind by saying “ah well, part of the job” when, in truth, a lot of that time there was no need for me to be scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and anything else I felt like viewing. 

Sure, I had to be on the pulse of certain things in case news broke or I wanted to be engaging, but I was never specifically asked to be and, on reflection, a good chunk of that process was wasted time. Or at least it was a waste of my life, time I won’t get back. The latter end of that five years something changed, I’m not sure what influenced this, possibly just needing a mental break from the narcissistic echo chamber that is Twitter. I often felt like Neo from The Matrix; wake up, get wired into some parallel universe in which things aren’t real and dodging bullets was just avoiding flat-earthers, conspiracy theorists, and trolls. But that change did me good, it gave me a chance to have that mental break, it gave me a chance to think, a chance to look up from my phone and appreciate the things around me.

My perspective and use of social media changed. Who actually cares what I Tweet? Who gives a shit what you Tweet? To whose benefit is it of you posing in a swimming pool on Instagram? If I want to go to a JLS concert I’ll fucking book myself a ticket, I don’t need you to record it all whilst you sing like you’re having your finger nails ripped off by the devil. 

Why do you feel the need to wish a family member happy birthday, who isn’t on social media, happy birthday on social media? I’ve got a dad too, I go and see him and have face to face time with him. I don’t need to act like son of the year because I told all my friends it’s his birthday—birthday wishes he won’t see.

This goes for dead relatives too. Guess what? THEY AREN’T ON FACEBOOK! 

I remember someone said to me not so long ago “I didn’t see you wish X happy birthday the other day.” They meant I didn’t say it on social media. Therefore it didn’t happen. But it did. I sent them a fucking message. I don’t need to be seen to be doing things to other people. If it’s someone’s birthday, I’ll drop them a message and I’d rather they did the same to me.

How has the mentality of large portions of the worlds society become obsessed with how we look, what other people think and care about the opinions of people we don’t fucking know? Would you sit on a bus and shout “happy birthday dad” to a bunch of strangers? No of course you wouldn’t: you’d look insane. What’s the difference? 

I’m not suggesting you don’t use social media at all and it’s all terrible. It’s not. And I’m not saying don’t have fun with it. The memes and gifs are gold.

In fact, I want quite the opposite. I want you to enjoy yourself, enjoy the concert, enjoy the sporting event you attend but stop recording it all and stop making it about you. Open your eyes and soak in these moments that you’ve paid to attend! I see it daily on the train. Nobody wants to engage, nobody wants to look out the window. It’s heads down, face in social media and forget the world. In some cases it might even be for the best, I once accidentally made eye contact with another human on the tube in London and they threatened to stab me.

What have you got from recording the events? Are you going to look back at your IG stories in a few years time or are you just after some attention and self indulgence to see if either your friends or strangers from the internet acknowledge you exist?

I’m not saying don’t take photos or don’t create memories, but why do we as a modern society feel the need to share and upload everything to almost everyone? Is that really healthy? Is nothing private anymore? And then we chase those likes, that dopamine hit, the things that seemingly make us happy. And then get a little down when the likes, comments and love don’t roll in. Is it not much better and healthier to know who your mates are and work on those relationships?

Phones are destroying relationships. If you go for dinner with your friend and they put their phone on the table, you’re instantly not the most important thing to them. Yet it’s common practice. People even meet for dinner and then spend most of the time on their phones separately. Why the fuck did you meet? To check Instagram? Can that not fucking wait? Social media, ironically, can be antisocial. 

I remember reading a quote once which read “the majority of your IG followers will look at your story but won’t comment or reply.” Basically they are willing to see what you’re up to but don’t give a fuck about how you’re actually doing. 

That of course is until a famous celebrity dies tragically and then we all have that “check on your mates” phase. Why isn’t that all the time? How as a society have we become ingrained into technology we don’t appreciate the people and things around us? We crave better mental health, an easier life and to be supported by loved ones. Yet we are more than content to share our inner monologue, pictures and information to strangers on the internet in a search for instant gratification. 

Try this. For one day or one weekend, put down your phone. Leave it the fuck alone. Don’t check your socials, don’t doom scroll while you’re watching TV, if you’re on the toilet, Tinder can wait, wipe, don’t swipe. Maybe even use your phone to call someone to see how they are and then leave it. Trust me, you’ll feel much better and you’ll be more productive. 

Instead, Ask yourself a series of questions:

How much time do you really spend on your phone? Are you happy with that amount? Why do you spend so much time on it? Routine? Addiction? Peer pressure? Boredom? Procrastination? Or do you genuinely enjoy it? Could you have a better balance? Could you be doing more productive things with your time?

There is no correct answer and I’m not judging. Only you will know what the right answer is for you.

We’ve become far too reliant on what is, let’s be honest, a fantastic piece of technology but somehow it has become an extended limb. For balance, I know I’m being a huge hypocrite. I’ve done some of the above. And I’m not suggesting you never use social media. But as with anything in life, things are best done in moderation. Have a think about how much you use your phone, how much you consume needless content and ask could you be doing something better with your time?

This might be the ramblings of a grumpy 33-year-old but when I think about being relaxed, being in a good mental state and not engaging with strangers (or even people I know but don’t like) on the Internet, it was all without my phone.

I don’t want to look back on my life at 60 years old and moan about all the things I missed or didn’t do simply because my stupid face was planted into my phone. Am I being miserable? Am I alone here? Or is this New Thinking?  

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