We need to learn when to put down the electronics

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| November 21, 2013

In this hustle and bustle of a world, it's easy to get caught up with ourselves and in the moment. We get lost in ourselves and our busy and oftentimes repetitive day-to-day lives. I myself have a very ordinary, repetitive routine that I follow each day. It's boring, it's mudane, yet I accept it. I don't often go out with my friends to big social events or anything like that because now that we're out of high school, graduating college and moving on with our lives our schedules are no longer even remotely the same. We stay connected through our smartphones by texting and using social networks. It's something that I habitually check now because it helps me to feel connected when I otherwise feel like I don't have enough time for anything else.

But there's a fine line between something being habitual and something being an addiction. As some of you may remember, I wrote an article some time ago that talked about my discovery that I have an addiction to my cell phone. The addiction got to a point where I would actually have small panic attacks if my phone wasn't with me. Forget the fact that people have been surviving for years without them, and even when I don't have one on hand just about everybody else does - it's not like I couldn't get ahold of somebody if I really needed to. Nonetheless, I knew how attached I was to my cell phone wasn't exactly a good thing. Over time I've been able to correct the issue, but every once in a while I like to rehash my feelings about knowing when to put down the smartphone and start paying attention to what's going on before our very eyes - I mean what's really going on.

Maybe I make it sound easy, but there are times where I still have to silently remind myself "Hey, you need to put down the cell phone and pay attention to your friend." "Don't pick up your phone to check your texts - if it was important, they would have called or left a voicemail." And admittedly, yes, I have even had the thought of "Hey, your son is bored of watching TV. Put down the phone and take him to the park or something." I am not a perfect parent, but I do try my best and sometimes even as parents we have to remind ourselves that we can do better.

I think that was the first step in realizing that my smartphone wasn't more important than my son, and was actually starting to rub off on him. I spent a lot of time staring at the screen of my phone, whether it was checking text messages, e-mails, Facebook updates, or news stories. I just spent a lot of time using it, and noticed that my son was also very intrigued by my phone at an early age. I pegged it on the fact that smartphones and electronics are curious toys to begin with, so of course he would be interested in it - but as he got older, they were his preferred toys. He didn't want to play with blocks, cars, dinosaurs or other play things if there was an electronic around. It was cute at first, but the more he wanted to play with the iPad alone in the corner, or abduct my phone from my pocket and was doing the same thing I was essentially doing to him from time to time, I started to think that perhaps he thought this was normal. And I didn't want him to think this was normal. I wanted him to develop an imagination and be creative. I needed to put the phone down and show him that working together is more fun than watching Netflix or playing Angry Birds. Not to say that electronics are all bad, and can in fact be a very useful leaning tool; but too much, in my opinion, probably isn't a good thing. 

That was the first and biggest step to realizing that I spent too much time on my phone. 

People of my generation in general seem to spend too much time on our phones. I mean, we have an entire social network that's designed for updating quips throughout your entire day. People Tweet whatever they're doing just so they can tell somebody, even if it means putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations. Texting or Tweeting while driving? It's more prevalent than you might think - there are quite a few people in my life that make up excuses as to why they should be able to text and drive, and it drives me insane. I absolutely, positively do not condone texting and driving and my views on that will never change. That's a moment where we need to put down the electronic.

I know there are more times and places where it's inappropriate to be paying attention to the smartphone, but I would be spending all day writing this article if I were to talk about all of them. The point is, as convenient and as entertaining as "phones" are these days, you can't argue that they've become much more than phones. There's an entire network and community within these small (or large) devices in our hands, but there are appropriate times to pay attention to that community and that world and there are times where there are more important things at hand. There is still a life to live and responsibilities that we have, both to ourselves and to others. Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves that we need to put down the electronics and pay attention. 

Images via Dutch Review, Hancinema