Stop Living in Your Damn Phone: A Wake-Up Call

by George P.H. on December 13, 2012

phonelarge

Last summer, I went to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert. This was a dream come true for me: Kiedis & Co. aren’t getting any younger and I absolutely had to see them live while they’re still touring.

Midway through the concert I realized that, at any given time, 5+ people in my immediate vicinity were using their phones. Everyone was instagramming, facebooking, foursquaring, texting…

They didn’t even stop when Under the Bridge – only one of the best songs ever – came on.

My first thought was, are you kidding me. These people paid good money to see a legendary band… but were more interested in telling their friends about the concert than actually watching it.

Then I remembered that it’s 2012 and this is normal. People live in their phones now.

But they really shouldn’t – and here’s why.

Internet Addicts Anonymous

I belong to the last generation of children who grew up without internet access. As a kid, I had to wait for my favorite cartoons to come on if I wanted to be entertained.

Every Sunday I’d stake out in the living room, waiting for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to come on at 11. If I missed an episode, I had to wait a whole week to see my favorite cartoon.

And if the T.V. wasn’t enough entertainment for me, I had to go read a book or find a creative way to keep myself occupied.

It’s different for today’s kids. They’ve got the Internet, video games and TiVo. They can choose to be entertained whenever they feel like it – which is not a bad thing in and of itself.

What’s bad is how addicted this generation has become to being stimulated. Now that most phones are internet-enabled, we’ve got constant access to all our favorite distractions – and we abuse the shit out of that privilege.

Every day you see people Facebooking at work, watching shows on the bus and reading blogs at dinner. They can’t just enjoy the moment – they’re too used to being entertained all the time. Without their hourly fix of “fun”, they get jittery and distracted.

Yes, being able to have fun wherever you are is incredible, but it stops being incredible when you can’t stop doing it. Phones are a great way to stay entertained on the go but using them all the time will rob you of real-life experiences.

What’s the last time you sat through an entire dinner without texting; saw something cool without taking a photo; waited in line without distracting yourself? What’s the last time you chose real life over your phone?

I find it very disrespectful when I’m out with someone and they keep texting or browsing the internet. It’s like they’re saying: “I’d rather escape this moment than be here, with you, right now.”

But that’s exactly what you’re saying TO YOURSELF each time you use your phone as a distraction. You’re disrespecting your own company and the present moment by trying to escape from them.

Phones can be amazing. I use my iPhone to read books and listen to music every day, so I’m not one to judge.

Just don’t let those little devices distract you from the truly awesome things in life. (Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts, for example).

Oh, one more thing – social networks aren’t real life

Life is a popularity contest. First we want to impress our classmates, then we want to fit in at work, and later we want to keep up with the Joneses (do people still say that?).

With phones allowing people to access social networks from anywhere, the popularity contest never ends. Everyone wants to look good and get approval (in the form of likes, retweets, etc).

But how many of your Facebook friends really give a shit about you? Sorry if that’s too blunt, but let’s get honest for a second: a Facebook friend isn’t the same as a real friend.

Here’s my definition of “friend”: someone who’d drive for hours to lend you money they don’t even have if you called them at 4 A.M.. How many of your Facebook friends would do that? Exactly. So why does it matter how good you look to them, or how many likes they give you?

99% of the time, social networks are a huge circle jerk with everyone trying to make each other feel important. Facebook friends aren’t real friends and likes aren’t a good measure of how cool you truly are. None of it matters.

So focus on making real friends and living real life, not trying to look good online.

Am I saying social networks are the devil? No! I use them to stay in touch with friends who live overseas, follow stuff I’m interested in and invite people to large-scale events. They’re an amazing tool in their own right.

(Also, Facebook has helped me not hit on married women more times than I can count. Thanks for that, Mark Zuckerberg.)

But when did we all become so fucking important that everyone needs to know what we’re thinking and doing 24/7? Hey, maybe your life is just that awesome – but if Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama can live without hourly status updates, I think I can too.

The other day, J. Delancy – who also runs a manly blog – asked me about my experiences using Facebook and Twitter for my blog. The truth is, I’m finding it hard to keep up with some other bloggers who seem to tweet something every 15 minutes.

It’s not that I have nothing to say – I just want the things I say to matter. We all have real lives to live and I refuse to subject you guys to every single thing that pops into my mind.

And I’m alright with that.

If you’re with your friends – enjoy their company. If you’re at a concert – watch and listen. If you’re stuck in traffic – be stuck in traffic and enjoy your having some time to yourself for once.

When you’re busy living real life, there’s no need for constant entertainment and validation. It’s so great out in the real world – why don’t you get off your damn phone and join the rest of us here?

If you liked this post, use social networks to do something awesome and share it with your friends using the buttons on this page! And definitely share any wild phone stories you have in the comment section, I’d love to hear them. 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

J. Delancy December 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Today, while driving my truck, I looked in my rearview mirror to see a young man directly behind me, texting while riding a freakin’ MO-PED. Whose status update is worth dying for?

I have to ask George – or at least someone younger than myself-to explain things like Facebook and Twitter. The technology and instant communication I get. What I don’t get is the barrage of banality caused by people refusing to exercise discretion.

In this way George and I agree, The Appearance of Living Your Life should never outweigh Actually Living Your Life. Facebook, Twitter, and most other social media are about the appearance.

Here are two questions for social media addicts, if the connection between you and your friends can be measured in bandwith, are you really friends, more importantly, is a status update putting you on the path to being a better man?

http://www.writingsofamidlifeman.com/2012/07/30/manly-communication-9-guidelines-for-writing-e-mails-that-get-read/

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George P.H. December 17, 2012 at 11:49 am

I like “barrage of banality,” I’m gonna start saying that in real life! &Read your article, cool stuff – especially the points on getting responses.

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Billy Taylor December 14, 2012 at 1:00 am

Excellent write-up, George.

Ironically, I had three Facebook notifications pop up while I was reading this, which I probably would’ve checked immediately if not for this post’s content.

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George P.H. December 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

I know that feeling, just realized I should turn off social network notifications on my phone!

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Elgie R. December 14, 2012 at 3:24 am

6:30AM, I’m driving to work early to avoid tropical storm Sandy. I saw a 20-something standing partially in the street, texting . I drove past her, then realized she was standing at a bus stop and all public transport had been ordered shut down for 48 hours YESTERDAY. I did a U-turn, pulled up to her and said out my passenger window “You know there’s no bus service today, right?” “OMG, are you serious???” she said. As she walked off I muttered “all that texting and you guys don’t know $hit.”

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George P.H. December 17, 2012 at 11:51 am

It’s cool you went back and told here there’s no bus service. It always rubs me the wrong way when people have the opportunity to help someone out and don’t.

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Kerry H December 15, 2012 at 3:50 am

Excellent article, I just wanted to say that I can only hope that my generation wakes up and opens their eyes so they can see that they’re wasting their lives trying to impress everyone else.

This is coming from a 26 year old, I had an iphone that i paid WAY too much for per month. I decided that I wanted to get rid of my iphone and switch to a 12 dollar a month plan that is very limited. I couldn’t be happier breaking away from constantly feeling the need to check my fb or other apps anytime i’m not directly doing something.

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George P.H. December 17, 2012 at 11:53 am

Wow, I’m really jealous of you! I need internet access on my phone for skyping with clients, but I dreamed of doing what you did so many times. That, and switching to one of those super-old phones that lasts 2-3 days off a full battery.

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Freerk December 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Great post! But now I’m experiencing a paradox: To share this with others is what I want, but doing this via Facebook or Twitter defeats part of the message here.. What to do? I think I’ll just remember it for conversations I have with my friends :) Thanks!

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George P.H. December 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Ahha, I actually thought about this while writing the post. To put things in perspective, I think Facebook, mobile phones, etc are amazing – so long as they don’t stop people from enjoying real life.

Thanks for commenting!

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Ben Reininga December 17, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Great piece – it reminded me of this, an interview with a bartender on the art of using cell-phones in bars. He makes a longer argument, but if it had to be condensed into a single sentence, it’s:

“Here’s the spoiler—there’s only one rule to using your cell phone in a bar: unless you’re calling an ambulance or ordering everyone pizzas, don’t.”

http://www.getkempt.com/the-code/a-bartenders-guide-to-cell-phone-etiquette.php

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George P.H. December 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Fun article, and it’s spot on. Especially the bit about a bartender being better than Facebook – some of those guys have stories for days!

There’s something else we do when going out to bars. Everyone stacks their phones one on top of the other and first person to pull his/her out buys drinks for everyone. It’s fun AND a good source of free drinks.

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John Robie December 18, 2012 at 6:51 am

Hey George, long time no see. Nice post, big fan myself of railing against overuse of cell phones. Have you heard of “stacks?” Evidently it’s a game where, over dinner, everyone pulls out their cell phones and ‘stacks’ them in a pile in the middle of the table. Until the meal / activity is finished, the first person to reach for their phone has to pay for everyone.

Luckily, no one around in my life has this problem anymore so I haven’t had a chance to play.

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George P.H. December 18, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Yeah, that’s exactly what I was talking about in the comment above! We just play for rounds of drinks, but paying for dinner sounds like a great idea for hard cases :) .

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Gene January 9, 2013 at 12:01 am

Hi George, I have stumbled across this blog purely by accident (or luck!). I have put a link to this blog on my Wordpress site – you have hit the nail on the head! People have forgotten how to enjoy the moment with their friends, instead they are too busy recording and sharing their experience with their ‘friends’. I was guilty of this a few years ago when the Crusty Demons or Dirt tour first came to Australia. With my old Nokia phone I took (very crap quality) video of most of the night. The next day going back through what I had filmed, I realised I had been so focussed on my phone screen, I missed the atmosphere of being there with my closest friends. When we are old (older!) and alone, we will look back at our lives and regret ‘living in our phone’ at the expense of the company of friends. I now know there are others out there with the same mentality as myself!

Thankyou for renewing my faith in society.

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George P.H. January 11, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Hey, Gene!

Thank you for those wonderful compliments. Sounds like you know exactly what I meant when I wrote this article. It’s all about being there, now, in the moment with your friends.

(I’d assumed that the Crusty Demons of Dirt was some kind of extremely heavy metal band. Was surprised they’re bikers; checked out their videos, really cool (and crazy) stuff! Hope that wasn’t your last chance to see them live.)

Thank you for sharing

George

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Mike B. January 16, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Hey George. This really was a great article. I’m 22 and I got my first smartphone very recently and this definitely hits a chord. When I got my phone I told myself I wouldn’t become one of those people who lives in their phone because I had realized a lot of the same of observations that you made. For the most part, I don’t use my phone when I’m in other people’s company but I definitely waste time with it when I am alone. I guess I still disrespect my own company. Just something to improve on I guess.

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