Monday, February 10, 2014

Weekend Recap: life without my phone

Several fun things happened this weekend, but the one I was going to document occurred on Sunday evening. I went to a concert with my friend and we ate pizza beforehand and I felt like all of this was worthy of documentation. I was going to take pictures with, what else, my phone.

We parked outside the Majestic Metro in downtown Houston, got out of my friend's car, I reached into my purse and realized I had left my phone at home. Panic. A whole evening without my phone. No pictures. No texts. No compulsive Facebook checking. No Instagramming my fabulous life. No maps app to get me home. Not even a basic phone to use in case of an emergency. I quickly went through the Five Stages of Grief and accepted my fate as being without my phone for the evening.

And it was fine. Except for the fact that I kept reaching for it in my purse and kept thinking of things I needed to text people. Also, there were moments in the concert where I was a bit bored and would have loved the entertainment, but on the whole, it was fine.

Not having my phone as entertainment did give me the opportunity to observe the other humans beings that I was packed in with during the concert more closely. So many phones. And it's hard to not be nosy when someone is literally using their phone right under your nose. When I got home I had received several texts and Instagram notifications, but nothing earth shattering. A text from my roommate asking why I wasn't home, but hopefully she heard the text notification go off in my room and understood why I wasn't responding.

I feel like it's cool for technology and social media to get a lot of flack these days. I've noticed people criticizing technology and social media through technology and social media. You know, Facebook posts about how people should get off Facebook and pay attention to their families. Or blog posts about how much better life is when you stop using modern technology.

I've come to the conclusion that technology and social media are not the problem - it's how we're using them. If we're using these things to enjoy the present moment, they're a gift. If we're using them to escape the present moment (or perhaps to brag about the present moment), they're a hindrance to a full life.

So, the people using their phone to take pictures of the concert last night? I'd say that's a good thing. A picture preserves a memory, is fun to look at, makes you really think about what you're doing in the moment. The girl looking up seasons of The Walking Dead and the guy playing Candy Crush during the concert? Not so much.

Facebook and Instagram allow me to connect with people who I care about, but otherwise rarely or never see. That's a good thing. I read enlightening articles that friends post and get to see what's going on in others' lives. All good things. Within moderation.

The challenge is to utilize social media and technology to make life more enjoyable, but the key to that is being present. If you're going to browse Facebook for a few minutes, go ahead and set aside time to do that, and make sure no one is trying to have a conversation with you. And if someone interrupts your Facebook browsing session, stop, give them your undivided attention, and be present.

Whether it's texting, taking a phone call, tweeting, or whatever - the need is to be present. If you're present in the reality of your life, then I think using technology and social media can enhance and definitely doesn't harm. If you're using those things to escape the reality of your life, either by distraction or bragging, then I think you're missing out on life. And life is too short to be missed out on.

So, that's my defense of social media and technology. I hope I never, ever forget my phone again.

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