A scenario happened to me this morning that happens to some people far too often. You open up your purse to find your phone, but it’s not there. The downside is that you’re already at work and there’s still a full day to get through. If you’re like me and attached to your phone, it feels weird to not be able to check the time, open text messages, or basically be apart of instant communication that comes with having a cell phone. While I’ve already written articles about the downside of being constantly connected to technology (ie. Don’t Let Technology Mess Up Real Life Relationships), the cell phone is its own category all-together: people use cell phones like all-purpose communication tools. It’s a gadget that’s become something that people use as a crutch to not talk to people in person. What exactly is the point of being so attached to a digital device, yet oblivious to the world around you? Not having my phone around me this morning has made me ponder this question, so I thought I’d muse about it and try to decipher the reason behind our obsession with our phones.

Sometimes, when I go to a new place and don’t know anyone, it’s just easier to just look down at my cell phone and text someone I know. It might be a bad habit, but I’ve seen other people do the same thing in public places. It’s even common to be at a dinner with friends and constantly see one or more people looking down at their phones at your own table. Constantly being somewhere else might be natural in such a technological environment, but is it really healthy to be so detached from our surroundings? Being separated from my cell phone today has been an interesting experience: it started with both shock and annoyance culminated with a pay phone call home, yet has steadily eased into general nervousness and reassuring myself of its unimportance. I think the main reason I’ve felt this way is that I’m afraid, as a lot of people are, of being disconnected from people. Having your phone means that you’re available for people to contact you on the spot and when you lose that ability, it’s kind of disconcerting. My first thought when I forgot my phone was, will people get annoyed if I don’t answer their texts until 7pm tonight? I might really want my phone back right now, but I know it’s a good experience (and an article idea!) to have to deal with a day where I have to live without my “crutch.” It reminds me of being up in the mountains for vacation last summer and just basking in nature. The summer is the perfect time to calm down on the technological front and just let it be, especially with it being so nice outside!

This might sound really bad, but I’ll admit that when I was at a concert this past weekend with one friend, I kept answering texts on my phone. It can sometimes be hard to gauge the importance of communicating with certain people, yet it’s vital to know when to put the technology down and just go with the moment. It can be difficult enough when multiple people are talking to your face at once, but it’s even crazier when different mediums are involved. You could be texting, using any form of IM, or even just checking your e-mail and you’re lost in a separate world. A lot of phones have internet-related features now, therefore, when the phone is left at home, lost, or stolen, it’s like losing your virtual livelihood. I remember looking around me after realizing my phone was at home and just feeling helpless. I know that’s not a healthy feeling, yet I felt naked without my phone by my side. I haven’t had a phone even half as long as I’ve been alive, yet it feels like a part of me. Why does this phenomenon happen?

In 2010, as has always been the case, it’s common for people to feel “left out” if they don’t have a connection to others. The fact that these personal connections have extended to technology has created a different environment where people are less apt to initiate conversations in person. While phones can be lifesavers in emergency situations, they’ve become so much more in recent years. Being connected to more people in the world is one of the most important aspects of this new generation, yet it’s a vitally important experience to have to talk to others face-to-face. Social skills are important for jobs, as well as interactions with strangers and personal relationships alike. Being constantly attached to one’s phone might be a new and interesting way to get to know someone, but being away from your phone, even just for a little bit, makes it easier to appreciate the world around you and what you might be missing behind the screen. Keep your eyes off of your phone sometimes and just embrace what’s around you – life’s out there for independent exploration, so don’t miss out!

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