Staring Downward


If you're reading this from your mobile device or tablet, look up. Look straight in front of you. Turn left and right, and absorb what you see. Make a note of your environment. See what other people around you are doing.Chances are, they might look a little like the people in the picture above: staring down at their phones.Ever since the world has become acclimated with smartphones, people have developed what could either be a natural evolution of our cervical spine curling, or (hopefully, more probable) a habit of looking at them.The world has become so tightly-woven with amazing social networks that allow you to keep in touch with people literally on the other side of the world. We're able to send pictures, write messages, and show our proudest (and not-so-proudest) moments of our lives to the world with just a few taps on our phones. When you think about that, that's pretty damn amazing. We have micro-sized computers in our pockets that can talk to people across the globe the moment we start moving our fingers on the screens. We can share our media to complete strangers online and find people who share the same feelings.Although, as Uncle Ben would say, "with great power comes great responsibility."We start getting so infatuated with the online world, that we start caring less about the "real" world. Since information about the world is always updating, and because humans are naturally curious, we have a tendency to want to know what new events have happened around us. From knowing on a daily basis, to hourly, to minute, to even just fifteen seconds ago, people suddenly have the urge to pull out their phone at any vacant moment of their lives. Some examples:

  • Walking from one building to another? Let's see what happened on Facebook since the previous minute that we checked it.
  • Waiting at a stoplight? Let's pull out the phone and read some recent tweets.
  • Have no one to talk to at a social gathering? Let's send some text messages to people to mask that "awkward" space.
  • At a social gathering, but everyone else is on their phones? Might as well do the same...
  • Using the bathroom? Well, you get the idea.

It's gotten to a point now where people will look at their phone any moment that they decide to context-switch. And as a result, people look like they're seemingly glued to their phones.I'm not exempt from this, I admit. It's become a natural tendency for me to check out what's going on in the world, even if I just checked it a few minutes ago. Recently though, I've begun to ask myself, do I really need to look at my phone? And if so, why? Why is it so important? As humans, we've lived through all of those examples listed above without smartphones, so why it would it be any different if I revert my behavior back to that?It's merely because I'm curious. Since the Internet's ambrosia is knowledge and media, it is addicting to see what new events have unfolded. Since people around the world have access to this, it's almost guaranteed that there's something new to look at. Social media apps do a fantastic job of luring you back in by showing a "New stories" bubble, leading you into something new that you haven't seen.But it goes back to my original question: do I really need to look? What benefits will I acquire if I find out some bit of news the second it's posted versus an hour later? Why is it important that I need to know something that I don't even know right now?It's because of those questions that I've begun deferring looking at my phone whenever possible. We as people need to realize that, yeah, we have the world literally at our fingertips. But, that's the world, not our world. Our world consists of the environment around us. We should embrace and take in everything around us, versus ignore everything and continue staring down. When walking down to your workplace, your next class, or to the building next door, just walk. Observe other people, think about everything you need to do, look at the wildlife; anything! There is so much more to life than a small phone that you'll more than likely end up losing/breaking/dropping in a toilet at some point.Our responsibility to life is to enjoy it. If we keep staring downward, we'll never get to experience the beauty of the world around us.Here's a great snippet of Louis CK explaining why he doesn't want to get a phone for his kids, and why he doesn't like cell phones in general. As he mentions, we don't get to experience the true effects of life (i.e. feeling sad and not resorting to some quick aside to mask that feeling) when people become so attached to their phones. Anyway, that's about it. This sounded more like a rant than anything. Oh well.Let's take strides to better live our lives and not become completely unaware of this real and amazing world surrounding us.Until next time,Corey