If I had the choice, I would go back to my Nokia 3310 — maybe the new flashy orange one — the kind that would just send a few SMS texts and make calls. A phone that wouldn’t need me to be ‘on’ all the time, for work, friends or family. If I had the choice, I would leave the phone at home, while I was busy living life.
More than half of the world’s population is online today — four billion people are using the internet as of 2018 according to the Global Digital report published by WeAreSocial and Hootsuite. In that half, more than three billion people use social media. These numbers are constantly changing, increasing by the second.
I was never for a lot of internet time, long before Facebook became proof of life. While my friends stayed up nights chatting with friends or making friends in chat rooms I was happily reading a book or watching movies with my brother.
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When the ‘blue tick’ option came on Whats-App, I was in total despair — now I would have to actually open messages because people would know if I hadn’t read their texts. I even deleted WhatsApp during my post-graduation until my teachers said I would probably fail — all my internal assignments were only going to be distributed over WhatsApp groups.
In this debate, I definitely don’t want anyone misled into thinking that I hate technology or that technology is bad. I love that there are so many ways now to get over communications gaps, professionally and personally. I am also not anti-social — quite the opposite really.
However, I do strongly feel that almost all of us are on a digital leash today, a very short one at that. Why? Most millennials may stare at me with more than some incredulity when I say this — but I don’t like being switched on all the time because I feel like my day isn’t mine anymore.
Think about it — you wake up, check your emails, message your friends; get to work, do more of the same, get back home and some more, and again right before you fall asleep. It is the constant need to be available, the constant need to be communicating. If you’re not communicating you’re answerable, with time and date proof no less.
You lose time where it matters — face time with family or friends, and more importantly you lose me-time. Each time you reply to five emails and send out five WhatsApp messages, 10 minutes of life just roll by.
Yes, being online is productive to an extent; but you’re not just online for ten minutes or even an hour daily — you’re online most of your waking hours. The latest data from Global Web Index this year proves that we spend one-third of our lives online — that is a continuous 25 years for a human’s average lifespan of 75 years.
I do have days of relief, when all the important people in my life are in one place — my parents, my brother and my fiance — I can’t even find my phone and I could care less. I can go hours without even thinking of making a call or sending an email. On those days, when it’s finally time for me to check my phone again, I can’t help but wish I didn’t have to. But you do have to — that’s what modern life has become.
Show me one regular person, younger than 50, who would purposely leave their phone at home. The phone is now an accessory, almost a limb. It is something that is keeping you on top of your work, your relationships and many other things in your life.
Can you stop now? Probably not. However, humans are creatures of habit and if you and I are able to find a balance and strict rules — the leash could disappear.
You could use your phone just enough and yet have the luxury of forgetting it at home. Tell your peers and your friends that you need an off-time — even if that starts at just one hour a day. It’s your day too, and if you want it to be spent being online and chatting to friends, that’s great. If you don’t want that, that’s a great choice too.
The whole argument is about choice and the invisible lock that technology places on that choice, whether you feel that way or not. That’s why I say, all the things I would do, if I had a choice.