We’re so connected to our smart devices that some people have said they feel “phantom vibrations” while away from their phones, like they’re feeling the itch of a missing limb. Our relationships with our mobile devices do come with some benefits, like freeing up cognitive space, but it’s also robbing us from valuable connections.
Pickersgill was inspired after witnessing a family sitting together at the Illium Café in Troy, New York, with their phones out, so disengaged with one another:
“Father and two daughters have their own phones out. Mom doesn’t have one or chooses to leave it put away. She stares out the window, sad and alone in the company of her closest family. Dad looks up every so often to announce some obscure piece of info he found online. Twice he goes on about a large fish that was caught. No one replies. I am saddened by the use of technology for interaction in exchange for not interacting. This has never happened before and I doubt we have scratched the surface of the social impact of this new experience. Mom has her phone out now.”
He describes it as a moment “where you see something so amazingly common that it startles you into consciousness of what’s actually happening and it is impossible to forget.”
Cultural analyst Sherry Turkle has spent the past 15 years studying how mobile communication has influenced our behavior in a fundamental way.
“I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people, young and old, about their plugged-in lives,” she said in a TED Talk. “And what I’ve found is that our little devices, those little devices in our pockets, are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do; they change who we are. Some of the things we do now with our devices are things that, only a few years ago, we would have found odd or disturbing, but they’ve quickly come to seem familiar, just how we do things.
If you’d like to reacquaint yourself with the people around you, the app Moment might be able to help. It gives users daily challenges to attempt to endure some smartphone downtime in order to help rev up your brain for a moment of creativity. It tracks phone usage from day to day and how many times you may pick it up “just to check it.” Time away from our phones causes amazing things to happen.
Images in article: ©Eric Pickersgill
Image cover credit: Adam Berry / Stringer / Getty
Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker