Hands down, the biggest technological advancement of our age has been the smartphone. The rapid impact it is having upon billions of humans is as exciting as it is horrifying. I have enjoyed the journey thus far along the "mobile connected universe", but I must admit that this was not exactly what I was envisioning 20 years ago. Granted, the endless features that I can perform from my pocket do come in handy quite often, but I would estimate that over 90% of the apps on my smartphone are a COMPLETE waste of time.
Smartphones have become a major distraction from the real world for many people including myself and they can become a HUGE time-suck and enslave you if you allow them to. Every single app on your smartphone is vying for your attention and with every new generation of devices this only seems to escalate. For most individuals, our smartphones mean EVERYTHING to us... They are our communicators, reminders, stenographers, investigators, entertainers, instigators, mentors, friends, lovers, dope dealers, investors, protectors, reflectors, and even our saviors at times.
I have been looking for ways to maximize my time here on planet Earth and engage with life as much as possible. And that meant spending LESS time geeking out on my smartphone. Therefore, about 9 months ago I embarked on an experiment. I traveled through a foreign country for one month with nothing but my debit card and a wad of clothes that I could fit into a small backpack. NO SMARTPHONE.
I quit cold-turkey, left my smartphone behind at SFO (in pieces) and jumped on the next plane to Tokyo, just me and the world around me. The reason I challenged myself to "survive" in a foreign land without the comfort or convenience of my smartphone was to remind myself that there is a whole world out there beyond my smartphone. But more than anything, I wanted to witness first-hand how other people interacted with their phones and as a result, I became very attuned to watching 'where', 'how', 'why', and 'when' people did 'what' with their devices. During my smartphone-free month-long journey through Japan I had many revelations and it became apparent rather quickly that it is possible to live in this day and age without a smartphone. However, they can come in handy and save you time and energy if you can resist the temptation of getting sucked into the abyss. The solution is to Be-the-Ruler-of-your-Smartphone and NOT Be-the-Slave-of-your-Smartphone.
The notes that I have taken during my experiment to the present time have been complied below where I have created a list of:
10 Ways to not Be a Slave to your Smartphone. Unslave Yourself!
Some people are so attached to their devices that they sleep with them on their nightstand or even under their pillow. Bad idea. Cell phones pump out electromagnetic radiation which means sleeping with one nearby boosts your exposure all night long. Smartphones also give off what's known as blue light which can inhibit the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and disrupt your circadian rhythms. In the hours when we are sleeping, having our cell phone near us can lead to nightmares, inability to sleep, and waking up several times throughout the night. Therefore, I recommend keeping your smartphone in another room on the charger while you sleep, just barely within earshot so if an emergency does occur, you will hear the repeat calls at 3am. For those who use your smartphone as your alarm clock, spring for a good old alarm clock and thank me after your first night of real sleep.
One thing I noticed since Japan is how many people cruise around with their eyes GLUED to their smartphone, not paying any attention whatsoever to where they are going. I saw one guy while staring at his phone walk right into an intersection and get clipped by a car. I am CONSTANTLY getting 'bumped' by people walking down the street whom are staring at their phones. And I even saw a girl rear-end another car with her car while using her camera phone to put on her makeup while she was driving in stop-and-go traffic. So for THESE PEOPLE, I highly recommend you put the damn smartphone away and pay attention to where you are going on planet Earth, your fellow humans will thank you!
A 2016 study found that your average individual pulls out their smartphone over 50 times per day and I would estimate at least 90% of those are due to Push Alerts. FaceBook, YouTube and a host of other companies feel the need to push one notification after another to you throughout your day which annoys the hell out of most of us. Therefore do yourself a favor and turn OFF all notifications on your smartphone (you'll live longer).
For all you individuals who spend enormous amounts of time and energy giving us your "expert opinions" in chat rooms all day, I hate to break it to you but NOBODY CARES. Therefore, quit your whining, cease the crappy banter, and end your trolling ways to aspire to a life of bliss and harmony with the world around you.
What blows my mind is how much time some people spend clicking around on Facebook and Snapchat all day. For those of you who spend your day counting every like, waiting for that next comment, and posting yet another lame selfie, get some help for yourself. I mean seriously, some of you have a problem. It's healthy to want to be social and interact with your peers on occasion. But it's very easy for some people to get sucked into LOOK AT MEEEE LAND (and never come out). Spend more time seeking within versus looking for virtual friends and you will become happier. Better yet, do yourself a favor and delete you FB account like I did.
I have loads of friends (very grown adults) who spend hours out of everyday playing games on their smartphones. Whatever game of the week is trendy right now seems to attract their attention more than their own children, for hours on end. In Japan they took it to a whole different level. I would constantly see huge groups of kids along the streets of Japan in packs and as I got closer I would see that they were all playing games on their smartphones (giggling to each other). They would sit there for hours and not move, simply geeking out in virtual worlds with their virtual friends (right next to them?). With all of the mayhem in the world right now, if we collectively spent one hour out of our day solving real-world problems instead of playing games, imagine how much ignorance and corruption we could dissolve immediately?
I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to binge watching shows, movies, etc. But when the apps themselves are auto-feeding you content you love, it's that much more difficult to stop. HBO, Showtime, Netflix, and Youtube are pimping out content 24/7, hoping to entice you into their world for as long as possible. A movie at the end of the week is a great way to relax sometimes, but an entire lost weekend of Archer where you forget everything including your friends wedding is probably NOT very productive. Therefore, nip this one in the bud and turn OFF Autoplay on your content apps.
I can hear it now, "Yesterday random blogger TcurL was attacked and burned at the stake by thousands of tweens for advocating users to Quit Snapchatting". Perhaps when I was 13 years old I had too much free time, therefore why not spend it on Snapchat and Instagram? But thank god it wasn't around when I was younger because I spent my time surfing, studying, and traveling which in hindsight I would not have traded for any amount of Selfie Time.
One of my favorite ways to not be a slave to my smartphone is to go off-grid where there is no connectivity and preferably get in the water to go surfing. Going off-the-grid can always be an exhilarating feeling, like going back in time. It's refreshing to be off-grid where nobody can reach you, Facebook can't haunt you, tweets can't find you, and youtube can't annoy you. Whenever I leave my smartphone at home to go surfing, I immediately feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. With a smile on my face, I paddle into the water without a care in the world while I soak in the salt water and rinse off all the electrons from my smartphone exposure.
So if you are not yet part of the Tinder crew, simply forget about such apps and don't waste your time (because it will be wasted on god knows what). For those of you already sucked into this tragic world, bummer for you, you're officially screwed.