We all know how it goes.
The setting: An awkward situation. Maybe it’s your great grandma’s 105th birthday party and the only people there have hearing aids and need to be screamed at in order to hear what you said. Or maybe you’re at the lunch table, and your friend convinces you to sit with someone you don’t know and then gets up to go get a napkin, leaving you with a stranger and absolutely nothing to say (so…. you like breadsticks?).
A little known fact about Buddhist monks is that when they’re bored during meditation, they pull our their cell phones and play Candy Crush. (Photo CC by KX Studio)
Whatever the awkward situation is, the first thing 99% of us do is pull out our phones and check Facebook or Twitter or whatever, even if we literally checked it 3 seconds prior. I know I’m guilty of doing this, even when situations aren’t all that awkward. It’s like my brain needs to be stimulated 24/7, and anything short of engaging conversation isn’t enough to hold my full attention.
While I can’t blame anyone for pulling out a technological device when the conversation turns stagnant (I know I do), a mindful usage of technology it is not. While technology and social media and great tools and outlets for learning, most of us don’t usually use them in this manner. Most of us look up “20 Funniest Cat Videos” and “She fell off the Stairs… and You Won’t Believe what Happened Next!”
Oh cats… always being funny. (Photo CC by Thank you for visiting my page.)
After perusing this week’s article about what happens when teens put away their phones for three days, I kind of have to admit that I’m a little bit too attached to my phone. I always have to have it within arm’s reach, if not literally touching my person. Anytime I can’t find it, I have a mini panic attack. And I mean, this is all reasonable. Phones are expensive and vital to life in today’s society. If I didn’t have my phone, I wouldn’t be able to receive my mother’s 1,500 daily texts (which I secretly enjoy) or keep up with my school e-mail account, which lets me know when class is cancelled (a vital thing to know).
However, I also do know the freeing feeling of being disconnected from this constant stream of information. When my high school went on a week-long service trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation, we were encouraged to put our phones away and focus on the service we were providing and the beauty of the land. And this was super awesome. Sure, I missed texting my boyfriend, but I garnered a lot of positive memories from the trip, memories I may not have had if I was plugged into my phone the whole week.
I think that key to the mindful use of technology is moderation. Just like the guy that gave up the internet for a year said, technology can be a burden, but it’s also a necessary tool to in today’s society. He missed out on spending time with his relatives and important news because of his disconnect from the rest of the world. In addition, they guy said that he didn’t really even do anything productive with the time he saved by not being on the internet, and instead played a lot of video games (which, I mean, technically can connect to the internet, so I’m like, cheater, but whatever).
The point is, technology itself is not inherently good or bad. It’s what we do with it that makes it a mindful tool or a time waster. By pulling out our phones every time a situation gets awkward, we may miss out on opportunities to get to know an interesting person or to learn more about a topic we’re passionate about. Learning to use technology in a mindful way is a vital life skill, as our senses are being constantly bombarded by media and advertising on the internet, and we need to know what is helpful and what is harmful. Most of all, practicing moderation in use of technology will help us learn to use moderation in other aspects of life, and moderation is one of the best pathways to a happy life.
And even if you happen to be stuck at a lunch table with somebody you don’t know, asking them if they like breadsticks instead of plugging into your phone could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
I like breadsticks. (Photo CC by Kelly Garbato)