Quo Vadis with your Smartphone
When was the last time you checked your phone?
Bill Duane, a Google executive said “It’s like a magnet draws your hand toward your pocket as if spending 40 seconds without your thoughts is impossible”
What is it about a phone that becomes so addictive? Without even recognizing, you pick up your phone and don’t even know what you were looking for or expecting to do. What are all the signs? They surely don’t seem to be great.
Despite all the positive aspects of a smartphone and its indisputable relevance, we cannot ignore the effect it has on our brain and day to day functioning.
Have you ever wondered how much time you are spending on your phone, why are we so drawn towards it?
Is it because of something so important that you cannot finish a conversation before checking? Or, is it because you are bored, or maybe it is because you wish to escape the present moment?
We are surrounding ourselves with the worries of the past and the future and everything in between that. Designed an inescapable catastrophe shaped by our thoughts. The feelings and responses brought about are not aligned with our supposedly normal behaviour. Hence, subconsciously we try to escape those impending uncertainties causing anxiety that we are not entirely aware of. We escape the unconscious anxieties devised through judging, overthinking, and catastrophizing and criticizing ourselves by using the most conveniently present mind-numbing device that we call a smartphone.
It sure is smart, and it has the potential to make us smarter. But we are under uncharted territories, we understand everything yet we don’t. We assume our actions to be our own. Without thinking, almost like a habit, we check for new notifications, as if conditioned by the sound to await a reward. Everyone indulges in mindless entertainment sometimes. Now with access to several social media websites, designed to create a catalyst effect, we get lost in the labyrinth of instant feeds and videos that we cannot possibly keep up with but feel the constant need to.
Thus entering the hamster wheel, one week of stressful events turn into a habit of procrastination. This then creates a cycle of stress and escape. The more we escape the more stress cumulate for our future self and without realizing we turn into the great Harry Houdini. Unfortunately escaping is never a solution but just a ticking time bomb.
This kind of behaviour pattern was earlier seen in alcohol and drug addicts, try living without your phone for a few hours and experience the withdrawal pains. When cigarettes were introduced they were marketed as an object of status and need. Soon, we realized the harmful effects but our smartphones are not at all like cigarettes. Cigarette effects were quantifiable, while smartphones have become a necessity for all and that is what’s most dangerous about it, as we are still unaware of the boundary that needs to be drawn. And like any addict, we think we have it under control.
The external forces are now in control; it makes you do what it wants; you have lost the reins a long time ago. The brain lives in a paradox; it needs direction, but it doesn’t want to face the harsh realities, it is up to us to find a balance so we can take back the control of our actions.
This brings me to the art of stillness, consciously trying to bring your focus onto an object also known as Mindfulness, is a part of meditation. The best thing about mindfulness is that you can do it anytime and anywhere, for example, while having morning tea, one can focus on the senses that the tea evokes, taking the full experience of drinking tea, socking it in, the smell it has, the warmth, how it slides inside your throat giving you that much-needed jolt of energy. This experience exactly is the opposite of what we do when we are using our phones where our attention span is at its lowest.
It all starts with a choice, in the conscious choice-making part of our brain, the Neocortex that sets us apart from all other species on planet earth. It activates this part of our brain when we consciously focus our attention on a thing or object. As you willingly stay in the now and mindfully engage with the moment, the Neocortex goes online and shifts gear, it automatically shuts off the default mode network while switching on the task-positive network. These two pivotal networks play a significant role in how we interact with the world.
Mindfulness turns down worry and anxiety. You’re alert and awake to what’s happening, your mind doesn’t react. Your limbic brain, your amygdala, and your Hippocampus don’t senselessly answer it. Your heart rate, respiration, and vital signs impede as your mind settles. You are alert. You’re at rest. You notice. You observe. You don’t judge. You are resting within the awareness of the current moment. Effortlessly in control.
Qua vaids (Where are you going?) and where do you want to go? The choice is yours to make.
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