A World Without SmartPhones And Social Media

Daily Thoughts

The earliest memories of the phone that I remember were the corded phones we used to call our neighbourhood friends. When I flash back to moments in my childhood, the nights were filled with bedtime stories, listening to cassette tapes and humming myself to sleep. The room was pitch black except for the straight line of light seeping through from underneath the door. Through the curtain, you can see the stars shining in the night sky, and you can hear the occasional morepork sound. Lying there on the bed, listening quietly to my thoughts, breathing slowly and then falling asleep. The night’s for many are now technology filled with online noise and blue screen lights.

Where we put our attention towards is what we prioritise. No matter where we are in the world, there has become an increase of people becoming slaves to their phones. We have become a generation with a huge phone-addiction. Our phones, when used in excess, has become a device that has caused a disconnected society. We crave connection, but how deep are the connections that we have? It seems common now that you can be friends with anyone online. I truly think that to have one true friend in this life time is one of the greatest blessing.

Our sense of self comes from our character and our heart. It can only come from within. The connection we have with nature, music, art or our loved ones can only come from the heart. If we had a look at the hours we spend on our technological devices during a lifetime, it may shock many of us how long we spend our time staring at screens. There is so much precious time that we have in a day. Imagine a world without smart phones or social media. What would be the same and what would be different?

The pros of smart phones and social media

Family and Friends / For those who have long-distance relationships with their family and friends, our devices enable us to connect with our loved ones.

Living with convenience / We are able to research, read and find information from the touch of our phones. We can shop online, search for a phone number or use Google maps.

A sense of community and connection / Social media can be great for establishing groups that can help each other out. The online forums at university were really great for messaging other classmates and discussing ideas and group projects.

Sharing our creative work / Social media can be a great platform for those who want to share their creativity. I wonder if pre-social media created a more authentic space for creativity. The curiosity we have is often found in the quiet moments.

The rise of online communication / The ease of communication has also been prevalent since Covid as many companies are now incorporating flexible arrangements, such as remote working.

Using Wellbeing apps / Regular use of apps that can help with your mental health can be beneficial. I find listening to meditation podcasts everyday really help.

The cons of smart phones and social media

Escapism and distraction / Many people want to avoid the discomfort of sitting in silence or appearing to do nothing. The phone has become a safety net to take us away from the present.

Mental health problems / Our phones have influenced the rise of mental health problems. This is why balance is so important as the connections we have in person can contribute greatly to our wellbeing.

Spread of false information / Social media can be highly unrealistic and the spread of misinformation is prevalent. There is rise in fake news and the spread of opinions as facts within news outlets.

Lack of privacy / I think we’d all be shocked if we knew how much the online world knew about each and every one of us. Perhaps it would encourage us to limit our phone usage.

Having bad manners / When we use our phones at the dinner table or when catching up with a friend; it is bad manners. Eye contact and being present is one of the important aspects of communication.

The rise of consumerism / Targeted advertising is a huge market for businesses to earn money right from the use of our phones. Every click and every view we make is all recorded into an algorithmic database to keep track of our interests.

The increase of superficial comparisons / The reality is that what we see on social media is a curated image. It is designed to look a certain way. The most human part of interacting with one another is communicating in person.

Social media is designed to be addictive / The more time we spend on it, the more money corporations can make. Social media hinders our ability to focus and creates short-term attention.

Children using social media / There are more children growing up with technology and social media. Children should be playing outdoors, interacting with their parents and watching the world around them. The implication for us to also use our phones less rings very true.

Tips for using your phone less

  • Using an alarm clock to wake up in the morning and wearing a watch for checking the time
  • Removing inactive or time-consuming apps and disabling notifications
  • Having purpose for when you use your phone eg. talking to someone, using a meditation app
  • Creating a daily habit of not looking at your phone in the early morning and before bed time
  • Spend more time doing the things you love eg. reading, playing an instrument, going for a run
  • Remove or deactivate social media accounts that you aren’t engaged with
  • Reading, people-watching or day dreaming during your lunch breaks
  • Taking time to journal and reflect during quiet times during the day
  • Go outdoors for a walk and surround yourself in nature
  • Be conscious of when you do use your phone and what you are using it for

What are the main reasons you use your phone for?

Art by Maggie Stephenson

The Life We Lived Before Social Media

Culture

If you grew up before social media escalated and became increasingly popular, you’ll remember how interactions were far different to how they are now. We used the telephone at home to talk to friends, we mailed letters to our families overseas and we would go next door to play with the neighbours kids. Communication now has a sense of urgency, but the value in a conversation is the most important thing, no matter how convenient it is to reach someone. Social media has enabled us to connect with anyone online but there is a rarity in truly establishing an authentic conversation. Below are several observations of how social media has impacted our lives.

sharing / Sharing is a natural part of our daily conversations and interactions with friends and family. However, it’s increasingly common to share with strangers about intimate details of our lives. It’s good to share what you like, but it’s important to have moderation, because most of the simple memories are the ones we keep to ourselves.

privacy / There is less mystery now compared to when we wouldn’t know what someone is doing or where they are. It’s common to share more of our lives to the public. Every action we take online is not truly private from everything we view to what we read.

daydreaming / The art of people watching has been replaced with spending time on our phones. The days of sitting at the bus stop watching people walk by or staring out a window looking at the cars seemed to give us a sense of feeling present. Daydreaming gives us a whole universe into our imagination that a phone can’t replicate.

relationships / My close relationships with friends and family are often those that I see in person, or even those that I might not talk to for a while, but when you reconnect in person it feels just the same. It’s easy to be online friends with many people, but in-person contact definitely solidifies a deeper friendship.

follows / Before social media was what it is now, we tend to catch up, surround ourselves and make friends with people we feel good around. The concept of following means that many people are following the lives of people they don’t really know, rather than focusing on living their own lives.

daily routine / social media is a normal, regular part of many people’s everyday routine. I remember before social media, I spent a lot more time reading the newspaper while I was having breakfast, playing with puzzles, going to the library for an afternoon and being creative with my hands.

online personality / When I think of social media apps like Instagram, there can definitely be a narrow snapshot of what the person is like. We only get a tiny glimpse from a shot snapped in a second. We can choose what we want to show and we can show ourselves a certain way.

strangers / Do you remember walking down the neighbourhood streets and greeting people or talking to random people in the store? There was more of a mystery of not knowing what goes on in other’s lives but there was also a genuine kindness and connection that we would have.

news / We have more choices than ever before and we are able to choose which platforms we receive our news from. There is more fake news online and we are consuming news that has been specifically targeted towards us from what we’re already consuming, rather than challenging us with new ideas.

childhood / One of the most heart-breaking things is seeing how young children are already using phones and tablets. I would argue that this is not healthy for a child and even for adults using their phone when the child needs their attention. Play is a powerful part of childhood, as well as interacting with people or exploring the world around us.

boredom / How we spend our free time has changed. One of the most freeing things was when I stopped using Facebook. I think that social media can often be a way of filling our moments of boredom, yet those are the very moments that can be filled with something that can support our growth. Learning a new language, going out for a long walk or talking to a loved one.

special memories / When we were younger, there would be endless photo albums of memories that were captured. The moments were precious, natural and candid. They were just snapshots of the life we were living in, rather than photos of looking a certain way. Those special memories we hold dearly.

mental health / We live in a generation where many people have a smartphone addiction. The constant use of our phones are also a form of escapism of our real-life experiences. It creates avoidance in confronting issues and it has increased the rates of anxiety and depression. Minimizing our technology use is beneficial for having a balanced lifestyle.

in person / The best form of communication is always in person, even though it’s great that we can connect with people online, especially if we’re unable to see them often. However, I find that when we use our phones in the presence of others we lose a moment to connect with them. It’s the ability to be in the present that is important.

phone addiction / We pick up our phones numerous times a day to check our messages, watch a video, write an email or read an article. Before social media, our phone usage was far less. We would predominantly use it for texting and calling. We are constantly distracted by our phones.

surveillance capitalism / After watching The Social Dilemma, it makes one question how every part of our online activity is being followed and tracked. We are living in isolation bubbles from algorithms that expose us to repeated content that we are predicted to engage with.

sense of mystery / There would be an air of mystery. Now when you meet someone you can look at their social media profile and pretty much know most things about them.  Without social media sites, there would be more mystery and you would have to form your own opinion of them from your experiences.

over consumption / Over consumption is encouraged through the never-ending flow of information available online. It can be helpful to follow a small amount of accounts. I feel that then gives an added value, rather than joining the noise and mindlessly passing through many posts. It also saves time to minimize the amount of online content you consume.

ability to focus / How present are we in our day-to-day lives? We live in an attention economy where corporations earn profit from our attention and how long they can distract us. Seeing the world around us means consciously having no screen time and having time to be in our own thoughts. The moments where we get lost in reading a book or playing an instrument.

communication / The way we communicate has changed astronomically. We don’t talk on the phone as often, and most communication is done through messaging and emailing. We tend to use the self-check out aisles and we avoid more in-person communication. The true connection we have in the world can only be felt through in-person interactions.

the art of slow / I think of how our parents would go to the library to do all their research or how our grandparents would write letters to one another. There was no shopping online or instant messaging, and reading and research were all done offline. The ability to take a step back and take your time rather than rushing through life brings us back to the present.

Reflecting on life before social media causes us to confront the behaviours that have changed over time. Research says that social media is re-writing our brains and our behaviours are heavily influenced by technology. Social media has permeated many facets of our lives; breaking the boundaries of what is public and private. By consciously taking control and action to maintain balance in our life, we reclaim the time we may spend online, and we have the freedom of not being constraint to our devices.

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” ― E.O. Wilson

Art by Annya Marttinen

Taking A Break From Facebook And Instagram

Culture

Connection is an important part of relationships, and having a sense of community can affect our well being. True connections are incredibly valuable. It’s been a few months since I stopped using Facebook and Instagram, and the relationships that are the closest are the ones where you are engaged and in contact regardless of your online presence. They are the ones you will message or call on the phone every day. I really value close and long-term friendships, and I found that often on social media we are viewing and sharing to people we don’t have a close connection with. The aspects of privacy, mental health, phone use and what value it has on my personal life were just some of the areas that made me remove several social media apps.

The people who care about you will make the effort to be in your life. The people that really matter will make the effort to call you and personally invite you to events or to catch up. It’s not the frequency of contact or quantity of friendships, but the time spent. A natural part of life is that people come and go in our lives. Those who are meant to be in our lives will be there.

Your productivity levels will increase. The ability to sustain focus for longer periods of time will become a habit. Social Media can be distracting and take away our attention. Phones have caused us to have shorter attention spans. I remember as a student how distracting social media can be, and how much time can go by if we spend our time on it.

Decrease in anxiety and online noise and distraction. My mental health greatly improved, and so much time will be in your hands for things that add value in your life, rather than scrolling mindlessly. There was something about Facebook and Instagram that really triggered my anxiety. Our phones can be a form of escapism. There is an overwhelming amount of information online.

Spending time doing the things you love. Time spent on your favourite activities, hobbies and time spent with the people you love. In the past few months, I love to spend the early morning going for a jog or reading a chapter of a book, whereas in the past one of the first things was to turn on my phone. Time offline means that I put more conscious time in achieving my goals.

Conformity, validation and acceptance. I think about how I really value the opinions and views of those close to me, regardless of if I agree or disagree with it. However, I find on social media there is a lot of external validation from strangers which can have an impact on ones authenticity. True validation and acceptance is through accepting yourself.

The time spent on my phone is minimised. More or less the phone is mostly used for texting, calling and replying emails. I check my phone far less, whereas when I previously had several social media apps, I’d check it more often because there would be notifications that most of the time weren’t important. Excessive screen time is unhealthy, and takes us away from the present.

The value of privacy, and realising that most people don’t truly care about you. We are essentially the products on social media platforms. It’s hard to define privacy in one definition nowadays. I am quite a private person, and would rather spend time sharing certain things with those close to me. Most people are friendly, but there really are only a handful of people in our personal lives who truly care about us.

Body image and unrealistic expectations. There is a layer of social media that can feel unrealistic. We only catch a glimpse, and even then we can’t really know someone without engaging in conversation and spending time with them. To an extent, social media can shape perceptions of body image.

Being present and focused in my own life. I’m not sure if I’ll be back on Facebook or Instagram, but it feels good to be fully focused on my own life. I do miss the days before social media where there was a sense of mystery in our lives. No one’s life is perfect, even though it can seem that way online. Spending less time on our phones can create space for us to be present in our daily lives.

Art by Lisa Perrin

Spending Less Time On Your Phone

Daily Thoughts

One of the best things I saw today was a guy whipping out his big bulky flip phone, and proceed to click away and text someone. I’m definitely someone that still feels it’s nice to not use the phone when I’m with friends or at a dinner table. Although, it has become a norm to have our phones present in many situations, occasions and at almost any time. Checking notifications, taking photos and messaging people. One of the ways I’ve found helpful in using my phone less during the day, is deleting apps on my phone, putting it on silence or leaving the phone at home for a few hours. Out of sight, out of mind. It makes you feel more present and feel more engaged in your day to day moments, without the interruption or distraction of a phone. I love going for bush walks and being in nature, and I find the best moments are the one’s where you’re truly present in the moment.

There is now more of an urgency and ability to receive information instantly, that we lose that sense of patience, waiting and receiving news a little later. The silent moments can be interrupted with digital devices. It’s a wonderful tool, yet everything requires balance and moderation. When I took away that aspect for most of the day, I realised that at the end of the day, I can check everything in one go. My messages, emails, notifications and so on. It took away this sense of needing to check my phone, even when I didn’t need it. It made me more observant, present and just embrace the art of doing nothing and just being. I realised how much my phone can sometimes give me slight anxiety and urgency, take away precious time and that the less I use it, the more I feel focused on tasks and the more I don’t allow it to fill up to much space in my day.

I do miss the days where phones weren’t such a huge part of our lives, that when we left home it would only often be the keys on us that we need to remember. There was a sense of interaction that is not as common now. I remember talking to strangers more and making friends through the same silence, and simply breaking it. However, now it’s easy for many people to avoid the silence by using their devices. Many of us attend to a notification straight away, a text is replied immediately and there is ongoing online noise. I think to simply minimise one’s use of their phone is to consciously decide to. You could remove apps that you don’t use often, or aren’t hugely important. You could leave the house one day without your phone, and note how you feel during the day. Presence is truly key.

When I am using my phone, I spend most of it reading news online, from politics to arts and culture. We consume and share information, but there is definitely an increasing saturation of information online. When you realise that you don’t need to capture this moment, message someone about something right this very moment and escape the silence, you enjoy the moment. I like to take those moments to just pause, go for a run, read a book, pat the cats or play the piano. Everything is more enjoyable in the long run when it’s in moderation. There is also less desire to share things, as I find the line between what is private and public is becoming increasingly blurred. I really value privacy and in person contact, and engaging in conversation in person. There are endless things to enjoy without the presence of our phones.

Art by Monica Barengo

Life Without A Phone

Daily Thoughts

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How do you survive without your phone for a week? Leave the house without putting your phone in your bag. It was a wonderful experiment to try, after I read Womankind Magazine’s post on the smartphone challenge. I realised when I didn’t use my phone for a week, how much I didn’t need it. Most of the time when I used it, it was to search something, scroll on social media or look up things that weren’t necessary in that moment. When I didn’t have my phone, I felt focused in my studies and more attentive to the present.

How often do you use your smartphone, and for what activities? My phone is used to look at my notifications, and to read emails, messages, news, read articles and social media. I noticed that I use it when I don’t need to, and that it becomes a sense of distraction on what I may be focusing on. It becomes a form of escapism from the current task. How do you feel when your phone is left at home, or when you have to commute without its distracting presence? I felt more present with a curious observation of the world around me. It was freeing and makes you realise the reliance and attention we give to our phones, when we really don’t need to use it most of the time.

It made me realise how much our phones can be a distraction, because not every email, message and notification needs to be attended to immediately, and there was a longer sense of satisfaction to just check my phone only once at the very end of the day on everything. It allowed me to use my phone for only 20 minutes at the end of the day, to reply or make sure I didn’t have any missed calls or messages. Most of the time, I didn’t have anything that was extremely urgent. I also felt that I would sleep earlier and wake up earlier, and that my productivity, creativity and focus levels were far higher.

What happens to your social life? I realise that many people tend to check their phones even when they’re in the company of another person. I noticed that even when I have my phone, I am more inclined to focus on the person. In terms of my social life, I feel like it made me more relaxed when meeting up with friends, because I didn’t have my phone on me and just had to meet them at the time and place. There is also something wonderful about just being, and not relying and needing to stand there using your phone when you’re waiting for someone.

How do you feel emotionally? What do you do differently in a week without your smartphone? I felt like I didn’t have that feeling of urgency. There was a calming feeling of when I had an urge to take a photo of something beautiful I’d seen or to message someone, to know that I should just breathe in that moment and enjoy it then and there. Not everything needs to be captured by a camera, and most things should be enjoyed through the lens of our eyes. There is beauty and mystery in keeping a moment to yourself.

There’s a question on privacy when it comes to technology, and I think it’s important to remind oneself how much you choose to share. I think our visual self online can be perceived a certain way, but the best way to truly know someone will always be in person.

Art by Otto Kim