Are you a slave to your cellphone?

The problem is not the phones or that we have become addicted to them, but our mindless usage of the device

brunch Updated: Dec 10, 2017 16:33 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
phone slaves,Facebook,Insta

Do you own your phone or does your phone own you? This isn’t an effort to start a column with some pseudo-intellectual BS, it’s a question that you need to deeply reflect on before you read any further. Have we let our phones take over our lives? Do we think we are doing the right thing when we are tapping away on our mobile devices every minute of every waking hour? We all ask these questions, may even self reflect on them sometimes, but then another message arrives, another like on Facebook, another post on Insta and we are back, tapping and scrolling our lives away.

A bag with unexpected goodies

Honest confession time. I’ve had moments of doubt about my own column and what I do. Am I in some way also propagating and becoming a catalyst in this move towards mindless slavery to our device? It’s been on the back of my mind for a while, until a big bag arrived one day at my house that changed it all. Emblazoned on the outside was the name ‘Motorola’. Thinking it was a new phone that had been sent in for review, I opened it up only to find it contained some very strange and unexpected items. A huge bag full of classic games. Board games – Pictionary, Scrabble and Jenga. A phone manufacturer propagating the idea that we should move away from our phone and spend some time with friends and family playing these non-digital games? Wasn’t that counterproductive? Weren’t they vilifying the very product they sold? The plot had thickened. It was time to dive deeper.

True slavery

Phones today have become omnipotent, omnipresent and omnieverything! In India, there are 300 million smartphone users and growing exponentially. It’s what we use every day for everything. But while the smartphone brings us closer to those who are far away, it separates us from those who are right in front of us. While it makes us connect with more in quantity, it completely destroys the quality of that connection. Teenagers have turned into screenagers, friends have turned into machines and restaurants have become Instagram ATMs. But just how addicted are we?

According to an online quiz, 42 per cent Indians find it easier to stay away from their families for a week than their phones

Who we are

There is a quiz being played out all over the world and some very interesting insights are coming out – 42% Indians find it easier to stay away from their families for a week than their phones, 100% respondents keep their phone within arm’s reach for an average of 21 hours, 58% Indians use their phones while they are using the toilet (!!), 81% people check their phone during a wedding ceremony, while making out (!!), in a shower, or at a funeral! How much of the above is you? Google ‘Phone Life Balance Quiz’ and let me know what you scored.

What not to do

Now that we’ve established who the slave is, what do we do next? Lots, actually. The most important one is not to blow it out of proportion. Don’t give up your phone completely or fall into a trap of going to a place where they take it away from you for a period of time. Don’t digital detox. That’s even more brainless than your slavery. The minute you think of it like that, it also establishes that a phone is toxic. It’s not. The smartphone is the single greatest piece of technology ever to have been created! The problem is not the phone, it’s our mindless usage of it.

Three easy things

Let’s start things off slowly to get some control back. Here are three things I did that were easy, didn’t require any major sacrifice and completely changed my phone-life balance.

1. Don’t charge your phone in your room. Put it on charge in a different place and you’re spending more time with family in the evening, you’re not checking your phone at all at night and doing a lot of interesting non-phone related things in the morning.

Don’t keep your phone on charge in your room. This way you will not be checking it every second and will spend more time with the family

2. Take all your social media apps and instant messaging apps from the home screen and put them inside a folder on the last screen. Now you won’t be checking them in that brain-dead machine-like manner that we all do.

3. Check yourself before you check your phone. Ask yourself – am I expecting something earth shatteringly urgent, a critical message, a life-altering post, an email that will change the world? If not, defer it and check every two hours. It’s easy and works.

Make a start, rediscover the joy of talking to a real human being, tickle that dog that’s been looking longingly at you, break open a game that the whole family will enjoy. Jenga anyone?

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, December 10, 2017

Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch

Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch

First Published: Dec 09, 2017 21:24 IST