The Problem With Our Phones – Free Ebook

The dark truth is that it’s become very hard to find anyone and certainly anything more interesting than a smartphone. we love our phones and would never want us to give them up, but it is also gently aware that these delightful gadgets bear a hidden cost. To say we are addicted to our phones is not merely to point out that we use them alot. It signals a darker notion: that we use them to keep our own selves at bay. Because of our phones, we may find ourselves incapable of sitting alone in a room with our own thoughts floating freely in our own heads, daring to wander into the past and the future, allowing ourselves to feel pain, desire, regret and excitement. We are addicted to our phones not because we rely on them, but to the extent that we recruit them to a harmful project of self-avoidance. They do not mean to hurt us. But we may – and probably do – use them to injure ourselves. Addiction sounds horrible. But it is a hard name for a normal inclination: a habit of running away from the joys and terrors of self-knowledge. We can look up so much on our phones: we can (if we are inclined) check up the population of Lima (8.473 million); who won the Ladies Final at Wimbledon in 1997 (Martina Hingis); the definition of ‘tautology’ (saying the same thing twice, though in different ways) or perhaps the author of that fascinating quote ‘What you survive makes you stronger’ (Nietzsche). Yet this constant resource has an unwitting, unfortunate side-effect. We consult our phones, rather than ourselves. It’s not that we actually know so many obscure facts. But we already possess – in scattered, unpolished forms – the raw material from which a huge number of the very best insights and ideas could be formed: if only we gave them enough time and attention. Almost since the beginning of time, we have prized the opportunity to get away from reminders of humanity and to immerse ourselves in nature. We have wanted to gaze on the grey indifference of the ocean or the bright, incalculable, immensity of the starry sky. But our phones are the enemies of such experiences. They keep intruding our small selves into the picture. We may be on the edge of the Grand Canyon; they are beeping in our back pockets. We may be gazing at the southern slopes of the Matterhorn; they are receiving updates for a food delivery app back home. They ask us never to forget our ego – and the endless things that ail us. Without meaning to, they strip away the help the grandeur of nature can offer us. We constantly use our phones to keep track of our appointments. But we are – if we think about it – quite constrained around the things to which we choose to be alerted. There’s the automated reminder of the session with the dentist; the alert to jog our memories that it’s our parent’s anniversary or the text message to let us know we’re due to play a tennis match on Sunday afternoon. But there are other – very different – appointments we need to keep in mind. We need reminders to keep appointments with ourselves: we need to spend time with our own worries, to understand them rather than just suffer the anxiety they create. The grandest (and much the worst) is our final appointment: with death. We don’t know how many days we have left to count down. But what we need reminding of is not the day and the hour but the fact. Ideally we’d get a message every morning: Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris. Remember you are made of dust and and will be dust again. Our phones seem amazingly sophisticated: small miracles of compressed, practical science, working hand in hand with advanced Capitalism. We think so highly of them because we compare them to the past, rather than to the of the future. They are so much more advanced than any device we could possess twenty or forty years ago. Yet they are almost unbearably primitive, in comparison with what – ideally – the long future will bring. We are still so far from inventing the technology we really require for us to flourish; capitalism has delivered only on the simplest of our needs. We can summon up the street map of Lyons but not a diagram of what our partner is really thinking and feeling; the phone will help us follow fifteen news outlets but not help us know when we’ve spent more than enough time doing so; it emphatically refuses to distinguish between the most profound needs of our soul and a passing fancy. In the Utopia, our phones will be wiser than we are. They will be kind and not merely subservient. They will know how to edge us away from a stupid decision and how to summon up our better natures. We deserve pity for having been born in such primitive times. . . . . We publish new thought provoking films every week. Be sure to subscribe to our channel and take a look at more of what we have to offer at the link on your screen now.

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