I’ve been looking for articles that criticise the overuse of smartphones, and while this isn’t the best one out there, it certainly caught my eye, because now we have a word for overusing smartphones – or at least, using them when we’re socialising face-to-face. And that word, dear readers, is Pphubbing. Now, it’s not necessary that one should believe everything stated by an article that says “science says”, science suggests”, “researchers at super famous university say”, “researchers at American university I’ve never of say”. However, it was really worth making the pun and it also corroborated what I’ve experienced on a day-to-day basis.
I’m a huge hypocrite. I use my phone a lot more than necessary and I always find excuses to justify it when people say I have an addiction to my phone. That being said, the people who tell me to get off my phone are the ones who use their phones as much, if not more, than I do. I was very tempted to send this article to the aforementioned people, but those people happen to be my parents and brother and I don’t feel like getting into a huge argument with them. Also, I promise you, my parents need to use their phones for legitimate reasons, and are usually fairly good at managing when to check their phones and when not to. If they’re in the middle of a face-to-face conversation, they don’t check their phones unless they’re showing someone something on their phones.
However, sometimes I see my parents sitting next to each other on the bed, with the TV on, and both of them are on their phones. I have to tell them to get off, but trust me they tell me to shut my phone a lot more than I tell them. So like I said, I’m being slightly hypocritical.
There are times where I find myself without the need or urge to check my phone. Yesterday, I was on a flight back to the UK, and obviously there’s no Internet on the plane. I also don’t have any games on my phone so I didn’t really need to use it. I didn’t feel any withdrawal symptoms as such, but once I headed from Heathrow to my lovely university in the countryside, I noticed I was spending my whole journey on my phone. A small proportion of smartphone activity was necessary at the time. The majority of it, I’m afraid to say, was not.
There were easily messages I could have replied later. My excuse for being on my phone was “my parents are calling me, I have to let me housemates know I’m on the way home, my best friend in Canada is messaging me, my best friend in Australia is going through a hard time” etc. I could’ve done some of these things once I’d reached home though.
I’ve also seen people on dates staring into large smartphones instead of into each others eyes. I’m a hopeless romantic, but can said couple at least take selfies together, or hold hands, or share ice cream, or argue, or something? They probably don’t realise they’re being Pphubbed because the Pphubbing is mutual.
Where possible, in the last six months or more, I’ve made it a point to not look at my phone when talking to people if necessary. It helps me concentrate better, it makes the other person feel good, and if you’re trying to achieve something by having a conversation, be it a sense of camaraderie or getting to the bottom of an urgent matter, your conversation will be a lot more productive.
Staring into phones is pretty bad for our eyes and brains. And it breaks my heart to see that kids the age of four can play iPhone games but can barely read 2-3 words. I would never go up to their parents and ask them to reconsider their parenting choices, but where possible I’ll make sure that if/when I have kids, they’ll learn to live without screens for the first five years of their lives. I’ll feed them without turning on the TV, I’ll invest my time and love into them if they’re bored, instead of handing them my phone/hologram pocket-projector, or whatever we will be using in future. I’ll teach them to read, colour, write, paint, run, bike, swim, play sport, be goofy, teach them to play the guitar etc.
Yes, using phones have really improved communication and it’s something we all take for granted. When I think about it, I genuinely appreciate all technological advancement that allows us to communicate so quickly and effectively. Coding, website-building and smartphone application development will be the future, and regardless of whether or not digital literacy is in the curriculum, I’ll make sure me, my brother, cousins and the next generation of my family are digitally literate. Coding means we’ll be more productive members of society and we won’t lose our jobs. It also means that those who really are interested in computers, and possibly those who have a gaming or social media addiction (which I’m sorry to say is most of us) will be able to utilise our love of technology somewhat productively.
I have nothing against smartphone gaming. It’s alright to play smartphone/tablet games once a day for around 20 minutes. It’s a good way to de-stress, but I don’t endorse more than that. It’s not my business to tell others how to live their lives but it breaks my heart to see us all with smartphones as an extra body part sometimes. I just hope that the people I’m blessed to influence in future will learn to exercise some control over smartphone, tablet and even computer usage.
I would say it’s safe to say that most white-collar and administrative jobs require staring at screens these days. We students are stuck to our computers, and when we’re taking a break, we’re stuck to our phones! I would strongly, strongly suggest that if you’re stressed, go for a walk, breathe some fresh air (or freshly baked air if you live in Hong Kong, or another polluted city), talk to family and friends, get some exercise, cook, read a book with real pages and real words and a real cover, write, go skydiving etc. Value the people in your life enough to put your phone away. If someone is dying, they will call you. If people know they can call you if they’re dying, they’ll have all your phone numbers and will even call you long-distance. Of course, if something is urgent and you need to message someone on Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. then go for it but try to exercise some restraint to prevent yourself from procrastinating.
I’ve made the mistake of Pphubbing. I agree that sometimes you do need to reply to messages urgently because it may be inconvenient to call, so if you are, quickly explain to the other person why you’re doing it and apologize. If you find something on your phone is taking up too much of your time with a real human being, message that person and say you’ll get back to them later. In the digital sphere, there’s nothing worse than seeing that someone’s been online and has seen your message. Sending that person a quick message saying you’ll get back to them buys you time with real people and could indirectly influence others stuck on their phones to follow your example.
It’s not my place to tell you what to do, it’s a choice that you’re going to make. Where possible, I’m going to cut down on my phone usage – during lectures, while talking to people and in my free time. If something is urgent, or if I feel like being on my phone or scrolling through my Facebook feed, I’ll do so at an allotted time that I choose. I’m a lot more productive when I’m not checking my phone, and I also create better relationships and better memories with people I love, and with people I want to get to know better.
So, as promised, here’s my first piece of ‘gidvice’. Don’t let your phone control you. You need to control your phone.