A man with his cell phone.A man with his cell phone.
By JEPKOECH KENDAGOR

When was the last time you heard the chirping of birds? Or listened to the rain tapping on your window? Do you remember when you last sat with your friends and had an hour-long interaction without reaching for your phone?

Have you recently been to a restaurant, ordered and eaten without first fishing your phone out to post the contents of your plate for all of Snapchat or Instagram to see? Can you sit quietly for an hour without a screen of some sort to distract you?

“I can, but I don’t want to,” you are probably saying. You have no time to listen to the birds or the rain. You are busy. You need to reply to those emails. You must read that article. You owe it to your followers to update them on your every move; after all, isn’t this why they follow you?

These are just some of the excuses we will tell ourselves to avoid the unhappy truth that we are worshippers of our gadgets. We won’t admit it to ourselves, much less anyone else, but we have become slaves to our screens, especially our phones. It wouldn’t be too surprising if we ended up needing them to remind us to breathe.

GAME CHANGER

The invention of the smartphone was a game changer in human interaction; a great blessing, you might say. All of a sudden, we had the world in our hands, and we were hooked. Communicating has never been easier. No one is out of reach. We can do anything from anywhere.

Our businesses have thrived too and we are able to work on the go, thanks to our gadgets. They have also opened up new avenues of making money. If you don’t believe me, ask the “YouTubers” and social media influencers on your timeline. Without a doubt, we have much to appreciate our gadgets for.

However, we must not ignore the negative aspects that come with our phones. Our lives today are almost completely controlled by them. We have apps that wake us up, tell us what to eat, where to go on vacation, what to wear, how to raise our children – the list is endless.

As much as these are helpful functions, we have managed to poison it by becoming over-reliant on them. To make it worse, we are beginning to eschew human interaction in favour of online communication.

Doesn’t it seem strange to you that people will fight for hours on their social apps, such as WhatsApp or Facebook, instead of calling each other and hashing out their misunderstanding?

FACE TO FACE CHAT

Or how about having to endure sifting through a gazillion messages in online work groups, yet the people arguing are seated only two tables from each other in the office? It defies understanding why these people will waste hours typing furiously when a quick face to face chat would suffice.

Alarmingly, this kind of behaviour has trickled into our homes, where a family would rather chat on their ‘family WhatsApp group’ than have a conversation as they eat.

It has also permeated all aspects of human society. It is not uncommon to see someone scrolling through his or her phone during a meeting, at a place of worship, or even while driving. Some people even take their phones into the shower with them!

While the idea would be funny a decade ago, this overdependence on cell phones and other gadgets is currently recognized as an addiction by many psychiatric associations worldwide, and it is often tied to impulsiveness and materialism.

Thousands of users have been seen to develop low self-esteem and experience a compulsion to live or at least be perceived to live a glamorous life on social media, which involves going to expensive restaurants, dressing in designer regalia, travelling to Instagram-worthy destinations and having ‘perfect’ relationships.

OBSESSION

This obsession has caused individuals to resort to unorthodox, sometimes dangerous behaviour.

Recently, there was a shocking story about a teenager who killed himself on Instagram Live because part of his audience was goading him to pull the trigger.

It is devastating that our lives are heavily controlled by lifeless gadgets. We are slowly losing the ability to think, socialize, make decisions and differentiate between right and wrong.

We have decided to live like zombies Even worse, we are passing this down to our children and if nothing changes, we will create a generation of anti-social, emotionally stunted individuals. So make a conscious effort to put your phone away for some time each day and encourage those around you to do the same.

Kendagor is a digital marketer at Cytonn Investments