We tend to think of the millennials as having smart phone addictions and a lack of presence. But last week I had an experience that surprised me.
I went to see a band play at a venue in Brighton. Hearing songs from my youth took me back in time, and I had a wonderful evening just being in the moment.
Now bear in mind that most of the crowd are my age and older, I had expected most people to be enjoying the vibe in the same way that I was. But I was surprised to see hundreds of faces buried in their smart phones. And this was constant – not just during the gap between the support band coming off and the main band coming on. The band were playing, right there in front of us, and most people seemed to be missing it!
So perhaps this cultural obsession with the online world isn’t as generational as I had thought. I started wondering what was going on…
I think that some of this is about the instant feedback we get from social media. We go somewhere interesting, and we post our selfies on Instagram or Facebook. Within seconds, friends are liking and commenting. This instant feedback is a modern form of validation – a psychologist would call this an ‘ego stroke’.
I’m not saying that this is good or bad really, it’s just a human thing that most of us do. But I think there is much more going on here than simply ‘ego stroke seeking’. I think that our smart phone habits have a darker under-belly to them.
My mind wandered back to one of Brene Brown’s books, Daring Greatly, and how she talks about the excessive use of numbing activities. From over-eating to binge-watching TV, many of us prefer a numbing activity or distraction to really being in our lives.
Because the stress in our lives is often dealt with by avoiding, distracting and numbing – perhaps this has spread and infected our happier times too? After all, the more you repeat an action, the more of a habit it becomes. Just like how smoking starts as something you only do with a beer, and then gradually it creeps into your daily routine – perhaps it’s worth taking a moment to consider our smart phone habits from the same angle?
Whether you are reading this on your laptop, tablet, or phone – wherever you are, could you humour me and just pause for a moment? Look up; take a deep breath and notice where you are….
There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? The point I’m making is simply to remember to put your devices down and enjoy the real world once in a while. I completely get the appeal of numbing the bad stuff with an Instagram binge, I really do. But please don’t let it take over your whole world and numb you from the good stuff too.
I want you to enjoy the bands you go to see, smell the roses, and all those good things. Smart phones are useful, and social media can be fun, but it doesn’t need to be your whole world. There is more out there!