Is this moment so horrible that you need to escape it?

I’m not asking this question because I feel sorry for myself. This isn’t a blog about self loathing or loneliness. It’s about taking a long hard look at what we’ve become, as society. The delusion of connectedness that is actually disconnecting us.

A couple weeks ago I left my house and forgot my phone. I met up with two friends that day. Had no problem meeting either. Had great conversations. And when I got home, didn’t miss anything important. 5.5 hours without my phone and everything was ok. That same weekend, I had a family dinner and left my phone at home, I’ve done this a few times. On purpose. I knew others had their phones and I’m no-one’s emergency contact, so there is no reason anyone would need to reach me. And if they really did, they could try my sister or brother in law or my parents if they couldn’t get to me. Again, I missed nothing dire.

Today, I was reminded of the video that I post below. Watching it probably for the second or third time since it first went viral, it still brings tears to my eyes. It saddens me to admit that I do spend time starring into my phone more than I probably need to. I can look out the window of the streetcar and take in life. And sometimes I do look down just to avoid potentially talking to a stranger. We all do it.

I think Facebook is great and I use it all the time to keep in touch with people, to send quick messages, to share articles that might be inspiring, funny, silly. I tweet. I Instagram. But when I’m one on one, in a room alone with someone, someone I care about who cares about me, someone I maybe haven’t seen in a few days, weeks or months, I do my best to make sure my phone isn’t in my hand. (Unless I’m expecting an important call or showing them something or we’re taking photos and sharing that moment.) On my phone, I have a folder where I have short cuts to my social media. It’s called “Anti-social”. It’s cheeky, I know, but it does actually remind me to put down my phone.

The video has a simple point, it’s so easy to miss life. I will rarely point it out, because even I have become complacent of our culture, but I have a visceral reaction when I’m alone with someone and he or she pulls out a phone. Maybe it’s just me, but when someone I’m with is checking their social media during our quality time, I wonder – Is this moment so dull and painful that we need to escape it by checking Facebook or Instagram or Twitter? Why is it that we are so uncomfortable being with a real person? Why is it that we’ll hold a phone in our hand for hours and hours but holding the hand of another is awkward? I would love to spend a weekend where magically all cell phones ceased to work. All computers wouldn’t turn on. All we had is each other. Maybe a good book, a guitar, laughter, smiles, a walk in the park without the need to Instagram it. If we’re going to sit in a room on our phones, we might as well not be in the same room. I’ll just text you.

Take this challenge. You can do it alone but it might be easier with a friend. Put down the phone, maybe leave it at home, I promise you the world won’t end. Unless you’re someone’s only friend, they will find another person to reach out to in an emergency. If you’re worried about pissing people off that you’re not replying, send a message, update your status on social media that you’re turning off your phone for a few hours. Because if life is so horrible that you need to escape it, social media sure isn’t going to solve that for you. Wake up and live. If you die tomorrow, I want to remember laughing with you, playing board games, being tickled, hugs, kisses, listening to music, playing music…and so so many other things. Think about it, would you want your last memory with me to involve us looking at our phones or into each other’s eyes?