Life

Why Bob Collymore wants you to go easy on your cellphone

Safaricom Limited CEO Bob Collymore speaks during a past media and analysts briefing at Michael Joseph Centre, Safaricom House in Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU 
Safaricom Limited CEO Bob Collymore speaks during a past media and analysts briefing at Michael Joseph Centre, Safaricom House in Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU 

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore wants you to put down your mobile phone more often this year for one simple reason; for you to interact more with the people around you.

The CEO of the biggest telecommunication company in Kenya has acknowledged that mobile devices are responsible for creating just as many problems as the solutions they provide.

In a letter to cellphone users, Mr Collymore, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, posed some critical questions regarding the common habits of cellphone users.

In the letter Collymore also pointed out that technology cannot and should not be a substitute for real conversation.

He also narrated how, about two years ago, he and his wife decided to look up from their mobile devices.

EMBRACE SOLITUDE

“We set aside some time each evening during which we would put our phones aside, and just talk,” Collymore narrated.

“Later, when I was in hospital receiving cancer treatment, I learned to embrace solitude. I spent time reflecting on life and the meaning of human connection, rather than scrolling through my phone,” he says in the letter.

“During this time, I realised how much of our lives are spent looking for distractions, avoiding conversations and deep thought,” he further narrated.

For this reason, Collymore is challenging himself, and extending the same challenge, to all Kenyans to put down the devices and look up more often this year.

“I want to disconnect, to think deeply, to listen more and look within, without the distractions of technology or media. I have a feeling it’ll be good for me, good for those around me, and ultimately, good for business,” he says in the letter.

Here are excerpts of Collymore’s letter:

What’s the first thing you did when you woke up this morning? I bet you picked your smartphone and spent the first few minutes of your day catching up on the news, on social media, or emails. You didn’t meditate, reflect, or have a conversation with the person lying next to you.

Welcome to the Age of Distraction, where many of the five billion people on earth with access to a mobile phone live.

Mobile devices have been accused of creating as many problems as they’ve solved. In the last few years, numerous studies have sought to link these gadgets to shorter attention spans and even reduced memory capacity. After all, why remember anything when you can Google it, or use an app?

Think about it: When was the last time you really had a conversation with somebody, without looking at your phone? When did you last switch off voluntarily, and not because your phone ‘died’?

It’s ironic that the mobile phone, the device that keeps us connected to the world around us, is also disconnecting us from the people closest to us. We claim to be more connected than ever, but we barely speak to each other anymore. Our devices are replacing real human connection, and it’s time to reclaim what we’ve lost: conversation.

Technology, for all its amazing capabilities, can never replace in-depth, face-to-face conversations. What is said via text message or email almost never carries the same weight, or meaning, as that which is said in person. Therefore, technology cannot – and should not – be a substitute for real conversation.

Mobile devices have become the walls that prevent us from engaging those around us. They distract us from communicating, from real empathy, from dealing with what needs to be dealt with. We’ve become afraid of really talking to each other, of being alone with our thoughts, afraid of letting our minds wander.

In so doing, we have become addicted to the kind of easy stimulation we receive from our devices. We are overstimulated, saturated with information we could do without, and afraid to step away from our devices.

So this year, in the spirit of doing more to be fully present, I’m challenging myself to put down the devices and look up. I want to disconnect, to think deeply, to listen more and look within, without the distractions of technology or media. I have a feeling it’ll be good for me, good for those around me, and ultimately, good for business.

About the author

By HILARY KIMUYU



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