Allow Your Phone to Die

"We touch our phones", writes Adam Alter, Associate Professor at New York University, "an average of 2617 times a day." It is these devices, which stood absent from our lives as close as fifteen years ago, that have hijacked our present day lives to ensure we devote up to one quarter of our waking hours to them. As I write these words on one of these devices, I am struck by how invaluable it is to my function as a productive person. 

But productivity is usually one of many guises we use to stay glued to our phones, the one that makes it easy to rationalise what psychologists may refer to as addictive behaviour. Adam Alter, who has just released a book called Irresistible, explains our addiction: It arises because of the access phones give us to email and social media.‎

With social media in the mix, given how intrinsic being social is to our beings, it is becoming increasingly difficult to function without our phones not just as productive persons but as living persons.‎ We can't stand the thought of leaving our phones to die. Even the thought of its power level sliding below 60% leaves us scurrying for our chargers. Think of the last time your phone battery died. How did you feel? How about the time it was fully charged but your internet service provider informed you, at 01:05 am, that you have exhausted you internet data. Yes. Thank God for MTN XtraByte, right?

Yet there is a lot to be gained from being less than worked up about the power state of our phones. Yuval Harari, shot to fame by the success of his two phenomenal books, Sapiens and Homo Deus, takes it up a notch to suggest we do away with our phones all together. He explains: 
"Traditionally, people lived in a world in which information was scarce. Power meant that you had access to information: the king had an archive and scribes; the peasants had nothing. Censorship worked by blocking the flow of information.
In the 21st century, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information, or misinformation. And power means knowing what to ignore. The rich and powerful, above all else, have the ability to focus.
Look around you in an airport: the rich are insulated from the announcements and the advertising and all the attention-catching messages, whereas the poor people are constantly bombarded. Not having a smartphone is the new symbol of power because it provides the ability to have peace and quiet from misinformation.
I don’t have a smartphone precisely because I care very much about my time. It’s not that I’m afraid of information leaking out and people spying on me; it’s that I’m afraid of irrelevant and, increasingly, fake information flooding in. It is becoming more and more difficult to know what to ignore and what to pay attention to."
A counter argument might be that our work and lives are so entrenched in our devices that it would be suicidal to plug out. And this is the point: that we have become so dependent on a device we can, surprisingly, and it is increasingly becoming important to, function without.‎ The idea isn't so much that we unplug but that we regain ourselves, we set ourselves in the position of the wielder of our devices, rather than the wielded whose days are run only by the possibility of Instagram followers, Twitter re-tweets, and Facebook likes. That our devotion is first to ourselves before we can have the potency to bring our full productive selves to our email.

Phones are tools. The modern world, the condition of living within our era, has accorded us these remarkable devices. Steve Jobs, the man often accredited with revolutionizing mobile phones, as portrayed in a biopic bearing his name, believed bicycles turned humans from the most inefficient animal to the most efficient one. The right computer, he thought, was a bicycle for the human mind. A tool to take us from capable of doing close to nothing to capable of doing close to anything.

Having these devices in our hands has become our present day birthright, or more precisely era-right. This condition enables that we are capable of doing close to anything. But we should exercise focus in how we use our phones in our navigation of the world. How we use it can either save us or damage us. We should wield it with the sensibility of the skilled and not be thrown unnecessarily into disarray when our phones, even for brief periods, die.


Post Author: P. W. Uduk 

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