Is your Smartphone robbing you of a real life?

Finance or Money, Tis Thing Called Life

This is a question I keep pondering back and forth as I contemplate in getting either a Smartphone (like the Galaxy Note) or a tablet that my friends have been recommending me to use.  Most people I know already own a Smartphone.

I’ve thought of owning it mainly to help me to be able to post more blog posts while on the go- like snap a photo and then write a short sentence and publish the post. Then I would not need to come back and spend time in front of my netbook, or rewrite drafts that I’ve written on my physical notebook.

At the same time, I am aware of how much the iPhone, iPad, Adriod and Blackberry smart applicances are taking over people’s lives. As it is, I often have to chide myself for spending too much of time surfing the net instead of blogging (of course, I’ve minimized my TV watching time- in fact I usually don’t watch TV except that I happened to be following the 1 hour show of Journey to the West in 8TV. After the show is over, I have no problem switching off the TV).

If the Smartphone had been so popular a few years ago, I would have bought it because those days I could not stand being idle. When in the train commuting to and fro from work, I always had a book with me- and have finished a number of books that way. I could hardly stand being idle- sitting down to wait and doing nothing.

But it had also made me very exhausted- a day job then that was quite pressured, and then in the between where I was either reading or doing something. It caused my mind to be scattered and distracted. Easily agitated, and I was constantly tired- because my brain was active all the time that it probably never quite ‘shut down’ probably.

Then after I’ve left that job and went on a break, I’ve learned to relive the simple joys of ‘just being and doing nothing’. I could travel for days by myself without the need to speak to anyone (like the thousands of kilometres that I travelled by land from North Thailand back to my hometown in Malaysia).  In the process, I’ve learnt to enjoy my own company, and I’ve appreciated the quiet and solitude of the mind, even though the environment around may be as noisy as the marketplace.  It was funny that I never miss technology or my blogs when I go back to nature.

In order to be a real friend to others we must first learn to be a real friend to ourselves. To do that, we have to be in touch and aware of our inner going-ons.  It is easy to lose touch with ourselves… very easy.  Already in the modern world, most people are too distracted by the buzz and demands of everyday life. Add the Smartphone and social media like Twitter and Facebook- and users would just get more ‘zoned out’ and separated from reality.

Coming across the article in Huffington Post on Is Yourt Smartphone Stealing Your Life?, the author made a noteworthy observation that half of the parents at her kid’s school play were busy recording the play in their Smartphone and other devices that they missed out on the real play:

When we record life through technology, we end up with one thing: a lot of technology. We have 16 gigabytes of memory, but no real memories of our life.

It is we who are missing out on this great adventure that our smartphones proudly display. We end up with a kind of pseudo-ownership of own life; our life exists in the iPhoto file, but not inside our own being.

I consider myself fortunate that I was born in the era where kids my time don’t grow up with technology. We grew up playing 5 stones and drawing patterns by the sand and jumping around them instead of Facebook Cafe and Angry Birds. Life was simplier- and the memories of those days stayed in my heart and mind. The times spend with my family having afternoon tea- each being present and really communicating bore the sweetest memories.

Whereas I can’t really recall much of my social media interaction with others. There are events where I am the appointed photographer and my responsibility was help to take photos of the on-goings of the events. And when doing that, the mind is not really “present” in the event or as what the author had described, being IN our lives. It was different from those who were sitting down and experiencing the events.

Yet, at most gatherings and meetings, we would see people snapping away photos and uploading to Facebook to show what a good time they are having….even though if we are there, we may find the event being boring.

Recently during Chinese New Year I’ve met up with some old friends and did some catching up with them. None of us took any photos or was obsessed to upload to Facebook. We were checking how each one was doing and genuinely interested about what happened to everyone else. It was not was not easy to find time to meet given that our lives have evolved so much to separate directions. But we had a good time and left with good feeling and stronger bond of friendship.

Such meetings had deeper impact on us. When we snap away and attempt to record whatever that catches our eyes and attention, we lose touch with the actual beauty if it all. It is almost impossible to capture the real essence of that present moment.

Yet, in the end, after all these musings, I still may contradict myself to get it. Perhaps I’ll just get a phone with a prepaid data plan – and ensure that the Smartphone would remain as what it is, a device of convenience and not something that would completely taken over my life.  If  I feel I am spending far too much time on the device than I should be, I can always pass it over to someone else and switch back to my LG.

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