How to Know When to Put the Phone Down

I know the feeling all too well. You’re on a sunset hike with your group of friends. Once you reach the edge of the mountain, you all sit down ready to take in the beauty of the sun’s descent. But wait, how will your snapchat friends know you hiked up to the top of a hill to watch the sunset if you don’t snap a quick pic? And on that note, your Instagram feed has been kind of lacking lately, if you’re really being honest with yourself. So you decide to wait until the sun hits its peak and then pose with your friends for a picture, or ten. And obviously, you have to get a few candids in. The whole process takes more than a few minutes, and when you look up from your backlit cellphone, the sky is pitch black, the sun far gone. And it’s in that moment when you realize you decided to document your life, rather than live it.

So how are we supposed to know when to put the phone down? At what point do we need to “hang up and hang out?” There seems to be a very fine line between capturing a moment to keep for memory’s sake and attempting to capture every single moment of your life. It’s important for us, in the midst of an ever-evolving media and technology driven society, to realize where this line should be drawn. Now, before I go any further, I want to acknowledge the fact that there has indeed been an excess of these “tech free” articles lately. However, it seems to be the case that these articles do not capture the full picture. It’s okay to use your cellphone to snap a picture of the sunset, as long as you can still enjoy the beauty of the moment.

The real problem occurs when you start to “do it for the gram,” or in other words, when you start planning activities for the picture, not your own pleasure. How often have you ordered a menu item specifically for its aesthetic value, rather than nutritional value? And following that, how many minutes do you dedicate to snap pictures of your aesthetically pleasing acai bowl before you actually take a bite? I know what most of your answers would be simply because mine are most likely the same. My friends and I have put the “one picture” rule in place, and it has worked wonders. You know why? Because instead of this whole “10 minutes snapping food pics” game, we play the “whoever picks up their phone first has to pay for everyone’s meal game.” Lunch with your friends? That’s a time to put the phone down.

What’s a concert without a 120 second snapchat story, am I right? Maybe not so much. Think about it this way: You and your friends find out your favorite band is coming to town. You refresh the ticket page every five seconds, desperately trying to get those elusive pre-sale tickets. Weeks before the concert, you all go shopping to find the perfect outfits. When the anticipated day finally arrives, you spend more than half of the concert posting videos on your snapchat story. You justify this snapchat frenzy by saving them to your camera roll with the intention of watching them later, but let’s be honest you probably won’t. And even if you do, maybe once or twice, it won’t be live music anymore, and you’ll have documented rather than experienced again. I’ve fallen victim to this concert documentation trap far too many times, but it has made me realize that the “one picture”, or maybe “one video” rule can apply here as well. Your favorite band’s concert may very well be a good time to put the phone down, and experience live music without digitizing it.

The last example I’ll leave you with is walking. Yes, just walking. Whether you’re a high school student walking down the hall, a college student strolling down the quad, or a woman on the job, I guarantee you have looked down at the phone to avoid eye contact and small talk. I sure have. It’s just easier, right? Either you don’t want to awkwardly make eye contact with a professor so you scroll Instagram endlessly, or you’d rather not make small talk with a recent acquaintance or coworker so you mindlessly click through Snapchat stories, but either way, most of us are so guilty of this “over-updating.” Our phones are almost like a security blanket to us. Why are we so scared of human interaction? I’ll leave you with a challenge. Next time you’re walking down the hall at school, work, or wherever you may be, put your phone in your pocket, make eye contact, and maybe even smile or stop to talk to someone. You never know who you may meet when you stop feeling like you need to be constantly updated on everyone else’s life.