The Fear of Disconnecting

Three hours and 43 minutes. Six hours and 40 minutes. Eleven hours a day. With no context, these are just numbers without meaning. But what if I told you that three hours and 43 minutes of the average US adult’s day is spent solely on their mobile phone, as cited in Elite Content Marketer? Or that Lifespan reported the average teenager’s daily screentime to be six hours and 40 minutes? Or that, on average, an electronic device, such as a TV or computer, occupies 11 hours of an adult’s day as reported by Scripps Health. Now does that mean something to you?

Technology is powerful - so powerful that Apple introduced a “Screen Time” feature, illuminating users on how long devices consume their day and week, according to Pocket-Lint. 

We’ve grown up in a generation where we seldomly, if ever, leave the house without our device. What if we get lost? What if we need help? What if we’re left waiting and need to kill time? What if…the “what-if” factor keeps us scrolling to the next TikTok because “what if the next one changes our lives?” It keeps us awake at night because “what if someone needs us?” We fear disconnecting because “what if we miss something important?”

But what if what was important was right in front of our faces, a few inches above our handheld device? Have you ever taken a moment to think about what you’re missing out on in the real world when you’re consumed by the digital one?

The world beyond our devices is full of opportunity. It’s not to say that those opportunities don’t extend to the digital realm - we are all well-aware of the endless prospects available to us via the internet. In fact, the virtual world has impressively, and almost identically, mimicked the real one. But something is lacking in the digital realm, something that our phones just can’t imitate. It is the power of human interaction.

The real world offers us the chance to utilize our five senses. It gives us the ability to smell the flowers, taste the pizza, hear the music, see the world. The last sense, touch, is something we’ve all been craving more of recently. Since the COVID-19 restriction known as social distancing was introduced in the spring, people have become increasingly aware of how powerful and important human interaction can be. Disconnecting allows us to experience these wonders.

By putting the device down and simply looking up, the what-ifs, even if just for a moment, stop consuming us. And that’s what it means to live.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, ”When you are fully present, you are truly living; the rest of the time, you are merely existing.”

Rather than fearing what we’re missing in the virtual world, we should acknowledge what we get to experience in the real world when we put the electronics down. What’s on your phone screen will always be accessible, but real-life events and interactions are fleeting. This is what we should fear missing.