While I was travelling by train last week, I looked around me and for the first time I noticed how everyone was on their phones. I didn’t have mine, and that might have been what triggered the thought.
Then I realised. I am guilty too. We live in a world where we spend hours with each other without making eye contact. Where self-interest and self-promotion make us show the world our best selves and hide our emotions.
Everything is about who posts the best picture on Instagram, who gets the most likes on Facebook, or who has the most contacts on Snapchat.
We see life through the lens of our smartphone cameras, trying to get an artistic photo when we go on holiday instead of enjoying the view and putting our phones away. We tweet what our friends say, we make them repeat spontaneous things they do so that we can get them on camera and post a Vine, we Yik Yak our funniest thoughts and we show the world our likes and dislikes on Pinterest.
But is that who we really are? Is that the way we should be letting others see us? Through the screens of their phones?
How many times have we received a text saying: ‘We should catch up! It’s been ages!” We all know this will never happen because who needs to meet up with someone to find out what’s going on with their lives, when instead we can simply stalk their Facebook profile and know even what they had for dinner last night.
This is making the way we interact with people change too. From the way we meet someone on Tinder by just looking at their pictures instead of personally getting to know them, to the way we spend time with a friend but we constantly check our phones to see if Barcelona won the last game or what the weather is going to be like tomorrow.
This not only affects you, but it has a spillover effect. Imagine how your parents feel if you go home after being away at university, and instead of engaging in pleasant conversation with them, you spend the night avoiding their questions and instead messaging your flatmates to know what you are missing.
People prefer to text happy birthday, write on each other’s wall and go to social events so that they can post something about it or check-in on Foursquare.
I’m not saying you should throw your phone away. But we are missing the moment. Social media is making us less social. We need to change our habits because we are getting isolated from the outside world.
So look up from your phone. Here are some tips to help:
-Try not to use your phone in social gatherings unless it is for an urgent call.
-Go on a date or meet a friend leaving your phone in your pocket until you are done. You’ll see how interesting it is to listen to what the other has to say.
-Carry a book or magazine that will stop you from checking social media.
-Keep your phone’s notifications off for at least an hour a day and focus on something else.
-If you are studying, make a list of the things you need to do, and only check your phone once you get them done (turning the screen on counts as checking your phone!).
-Make the most of today. After all, the love of your life might be walking by but you‘re too busy browsing Tinder!
Image: <Paula Blanco>