We’ve all had those moments when we’re relaxing with a group of our friends and we’re the only one who doesn’t have their head ducked over a phone. It creates an uncomfortable feeling of exclusion that automatically creates the draw of reaching for our own device so we can be in on the action, part of the group. This does beg the question, however: if we’ve gone to the trouble of planning a get-together, shouldn’t we be chatting with those immediately in front of us instead of seeking out the company of online friends? When is it appropriate to dive into our virtual lives and when is it important to come up for the fresh air that reality provides?
First and foremost, it’s vital that we put down our devices if and when the distraction would endanger us. According to End Distracted Driving, over 58% of teen car crashes are caused by distracted driving. When we talk on our phones while driving, our attention is just as impaired as someone with a blood-alcohol level of .08%. Walking and texting is just as dangerous, causing over 11,100 injuries in the span of a decade.
Second, putting down our phones can be a great courtesy to those around us. Restaurants are often taken to be prime places for phone usage; we’re able to take pictures of our lovely meal and send them to our friends who may be missing out. Unfortunately a picture posted from a cheaper, unprofessional cell camera may paint an image of the restaurant that isn’t as flattering as they’d hope, despite the good intentions of the photographer. It can disrupt the atmosphere and ambience that their surroundings are meant to provide. This is also true of movie theaters, where the excitement and immersion of the movie can be broken with one ring from a nearby seat.
Third, we ought to take time away from our online relationships to foster better ones with the people in our sphere of influence. Going on a date with your significant other won’t have the same value and closeness if both of you are checking your notifications every few minutes and as mentioned before, you and your friends won’t ever find the time to catch up like you planned if all of you are too busy refreshing your social media pages.
When we turn down the volume and set our phones aside, we can better absorb the beautiful nuances of our surroundings. We’ll feel the wind on our faces and the warmth of the sun as we’re on the sidewalk or we have the car window rolled down. We’ll be more aware of the delicious food that we’re eating without worrying about the stains it may leave on our screens. We’ll be free to make jokes with the company we’re keeping and listen to them laugh instead of simply trusting a message that says “LOL”.
These moments in life are the ones we should cherish the most. Our phones often prove to be a nice getaway from all of the pandemonium that takes place in our everyday lives, but no break or vacation can last forever. None of us will be able to do what’s tangible, substantial and real right in front of us. For the sake of safety, courtesy and better relationships, it’s important to look up from the screen every once in a while. Not only will this give us better balance in our lives, but we may find something valuable in the moment at hand, something that’s too beautiful to capture with the click of a camera.