I both love and hate my this little pocket machine. On the one hand, it’s a fantastic tool for connecting with friends and family, educating ourselves, being prepared for the weather or traffic, becoming budding artists/photographers/writers, and overall allowing us to be more interested and aware people. On the other hand though, it distracts from the real world around us, encourages FOMO and jealousy, thrusts douchebaggery to the forefront, hides us behind an avatar curtain so we sometimes end up acting extra douchey ourselves, and the list goes on.
One reason I love hiking and camping is that, more often than not, there is no phone reception. It’s a trick I use to escape, decompress, and reconnect with myself and the world around me.
Recently though, I visited Death Valley National Park, and while the vast majority of the park is cell-phone-free, the small town where I camped still had a few bars of service. Cue the complicated mix of love/hate emotions:
I loved that I could text my mom and my man that I arrived safe. I loved the ability to text friends when I got bored. I loved that I could post to Instagram because photography gives me joy. I loved that I could Google lists of Death Valley hikes and sites instead of flying solo.
But... I hated that I wouldn’t be able to feel the freedom of disconnection. I hated that I wasn’t forced to be bored, and forced to be OK with it. I hated that after I had a little whisky I started checking Facebook to pass the time, instead of reading, writing, or just being. I hated that it all made me feel less mindful.
I’ve written before about how the distraction of our smartphone is a distraction of our own making. Quite simply, we can log off any apps that bother us or just put the phone down. But you you know as well as I, that’s way easier said than done.
We all have a complicated relationship with our smartphones. Sometimes we laugh the afternoon away texting with a friend and sometimes we thumb-type seriously stupid things in anger. Sometimes we snuggle with our phone in bed and sometimes we want to throw it across the room.
The trick for me, and with most things in life, is to find a balance. In order to be mindful we shouldn’t have to give up on all modern conveniences to live in a shack in the woods. I should be able to use all the great and worthy features of my smartphone but also be OK with setting it down for periods of time. There’s room in this life for both mindlessness and mindfulness.
I'm about to head to Joshua Tree National Park with a small group of friends for a stargazing weekend. I stayed at this very campground last August so I know for sure that my phone won’t work. I’m looking forward to it, and getting out in nature is a great way for any of us to get a little more mindful.
But in two days I’ll be back in the city. The phone and my love/hate relationship with it will still exist. You can’t just run away from your problems, you have to face them head on.
So I’m going to make an effort to learn from my complicated relationship -- let the things I love about my smartphone help me use it more wisely, while letting the things I hate about it remind me to take a break once in awhile.
It’s a worthy endeavor, for all of us. Make a list of all the things you both love and hate about our modern technologies. Then use both the negative and the positive to inspire you toward balance.