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Today, smartphones are indissociable from us and you surely can’t live without it (Him? Her?) for an entire month. It is indeed useful in order to e-communicate with friends, to spend time on TikTok... But how does it impact our connection with other humans being?
When smartphones were first sold, it was a revolution to be able to talk to loved ones far away via apps. At this moment, we were all just impressed by this new way of connecting with friends. From secondary school to university, I remember always having a smartphone and using it for homeworks or talking all evening with friends that I would see the next day. Their usefulness is beyond doubt today, it is very rare to meet someone with an old phone without internet connection. We feel that it allows us to connect with others, but don’t we get it wrong?
When I’m lost in Stockholm, I use Google Maps. When I’m searching for a recipe, I check Google. Asking something to people around me does not even cross my mind when I have my smartphone. I am not even sure if we outsource “not bothering people in their personal life” by using Google Maps. I think it is just a very comfortable reflex (for younger generations). Having personal contact with someone is always an effort for everyone: we prefer to ask a robotic device instead of a real person. With smartphones, all our lives are timed, they seem foreseeable and there is no space and no need for improvisation: my train arrives in 2 minutes, says my app, I am running not to miss it. And if I didn’t have apps?... Maybe I will miss this pendeltåg and catch the look on a person's face instead. I will see him/her the next day and start a conversation with someone who might be different from the people I know. What could life be like if we were communicating much more with strangers in real life? Could we have more unforeseeable things in our lives without this constant use of the internet and smartphones? Just missing my train might create opportunities I can’t even imagine and change my life a little bit, surely for the best.
But no, we have our smartphone, our apps that time our lives and in the subway everyone is on their smartphone or listening to some music: we never meet strangers.
We are talking about strangers in a kind of idealising way of seeing life, right. Life cannot be like the musical play LaLaLand all day, I guess - dancing with strangers on vehicles during a boring traffic jam, meeting by chance the cutest guy who plays jazz dangerously well - I wish it was. But how is it going with our friends? Mostly, we are less on our smartphones when we are with friends, which is good. Yet sometimes, this addiction goes beyond and we can stare at our smartphones even if there are people around that are not strangers, maybe even loved ones to us. I saw so many couples and friends in restaurants waiting for their meal, both scrolling on Instagram or Tiktok, watching other people's lives while their own lives were continuing without them on board. It is the typical image of smartphones as a small, but impenetrable wall between us and others.
I tried. Really. I spent a month without a smartphone (only with a little Nokia with mechanical keys). And it was AN EVENT. The fact that I decided to stop using smartphones was already a rather reflective process to me, but it was probably an even bigger deal for people around me. “Why do you do that? What’s the purpose? How can we contact you now?” That was when I understood the extent of the phenomenon. We are all such prisoners of this smartphone that even trying to stop is out of norm. I had a phone but not a smartphone. We are so used to Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Snapchat that we never communicate anymore via SMS. We should be aware of drugs, we know the risk of cannabis, tobacco, sugar, alcohol, especially in Sweden. But there is one drug that everyone is on and nobody seems to care about: smartphones. We can’t even pass one day without it, if the battery accidentally dies while we are outside we are lost and search for a charger as quick as possible; maybe even go straight home.
One thing I learned during this period with my Nokia was how time-consuming smartphones are. We often say or hear that we have no time: work, studies, children, activities, friends,... But then again, today, we averagely use our smartphones between 3-4 hours a day (depending on the generation, the country, the gender, and if you live in the city or in the countryside). Imagine having 4 hours more each day or an extra 28 hours in a week - it is like having 2 working days more each week. That’s huge. You could accomplish so many things in this time. But we choose not to do it. How easy is life when you can spend your time on TikTok instead of facing your deep loneliness?
I let my smartphone back into my life because it was way easier when I arrived in Stockholm and I needed to know when my trains were going. I've been here for 4 months now. I know the time for my buses and pendeltåg, I have all my friends’ numbers. I could simply use my Nokia again but I still have my smartphone. Am I still searching for excuses to keep this web link? I feel like a fly that has given up and is indulged in this spiderweb: “at least, I’m still alive, I’m just trapped. Is being imprisoned really a bad thing when you choose it?“
…Did we really choose it ?...
If you catch me in the pendeltåg, don’t hesitate to talk to me. Let’s talk to strangers, let’s change the path of our lives in the tiny common actions. Let’s LaLaLand our lives.
Should we try to come back to real life together? Should we go buy a Nokia together? Should we try to ditch smartphones for some time? Or forever?