Featured Image: One of the best selfies I’ve ever taken, right before I left for a first date. He did not tell me how good I looked.
I don’t remember the first time I picked up my smartphone and, seemingly, never put it down. It’s like trying to figure out when you grew pubes, you know you didn’t always have them, but like, when did they get there?
I know I begged my parents to get me a phone before I went to 8th grade. Everyone had one (not really, but my best friend did), and I would be such a loser if I didn’t, too. So I got my first phone; it wasn’t the RAZR or the LG Chocolate that I wanted, but it did have a sliding keyboard, and that about as dope as you could get in 2009.
In high school, I moved up to another sliding-keyboard phone that had a touch screen. Though I didn’t have a speck of data, I did finally get unlimited texts, a 14-year-old’s dream. I also had a sick iPod touch that could access WiFi, which I think jumpstarted my ability to be on the internet at places other than my home.
Shortly after my unlimited texting plan was gifted, I got my first real boyfriend who, if I didn’t answer a text within seconds, assumed I was cheating on him. This led to me having my phone on me at all times, either in my hand or in my pocket. Before I left high school, I finally got a smartphone — not an iPhone like all the cool kids, but still a smartphone that could get games and had a decent camera.
When I went to college, I was subsequently bullied for sending “green texts” and “ruining group chats.” This led to me begging for an iPhone 6s, my very first iPhone. My second iPhone, the 7, is the phone I still have because goddamn did phones all of a sudden get expensive.
After I finally dumped my high school boyfriend (good riddance), I was suddenly able to enjoy social media and, of course, dating apps. Leading me to always check my phone to see if someone commented on my Facebook post or matched me on Tinder. I started a long-distance relationship later that year but he was in the military and on deployment, so texts and calls were few and far between. This led me to always, always, always having my phone on me, lest I could possibly miss a glorious phone call from him. He eventually left me for someone else. Oh well.
Then, during the 2016 election, it was the goddamn memes. The news. The statistics. Could he win? Could he really freaking win? Alas, he did. And every day since then, we have been checking our phones to see what ridiculous thing he did that day; from making fun of disabled reporters to banning transgender people from the military to throwing paper towels at hurricane victims. You couldn’t take your eyes off it.
Then it was 2020 all of a sudden, and my phone addiction only grew in power. Every day was boredom + terrifying news headlines + 2020 election, and holy shit can he really win again? He didn’t. We’re saved. Not really. But at least it’s not as bad as before?
Recently my phone told me I spent on average six to seven hours a day on my phone, and I felt like an absolute disgrace to my ancestors. What a sad existence, spending a quarter of your life on your phone, on a tiny screen, and looking at what? For what goddamn purpose? To fuel my misanthropy? To remind my depression that the world is actually worse than my depression originally thought?
What’s worse is I decided to make an Instagram and a Facebook page. So now I’m upping my social media time just to get some people to read my writing. And it’s hardly a choice. You can’t be a business or an artist without these pages now. You have to have an “online presence,” or else you basically don’t exist.
My phone has become less of a way to connect with friends and more of a way to disconnect from reality. When I’m anxious, I pick up my phone. When I’m depressed, I pick up my phone. When I’m feeling awkward, I pick up my phone. I don’t use my phone when I’m with people, but I’ll catch myself picking it up absent-mindedly sometimes. It’s a goddamn curse. No, it’s an addiction.
We need to, as a whole, cut down on our internet usage. It’s not good for us; It’s not good for our empathy. You may think that getting news 24/7 helps you better understand our world (though it may have woken us up a bit), but it is also desensitizing us. We see and hear these outrageous things every day, that anything we hear now, we just kind of shrug.
The fact that the Capitol got stormed and lawmakers feared for their lives, and I was just like yeah, that tracks. If that happened pre-Trump, it would have felt like how the Boston Marathon bombing had us feeling. Three people died…at the Boston Marathon bombing. Five people died during the Capitol riots.
We gotta get off our phones before it’s too late for our eyeballs, our necks, my weak baby wrists, our social lives, our relationships, our mental wellbeing, our self-esteem, our ability to get a job without them reading all our tweets, our motivation, our ability to do literally any hobby besides scrolling, and our ability to be present.