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Smartphones and Social Media, let's take a break shall we?

Nicola Clarke
November 29, 2019

I'm starting to really loathe our reliance on our smartphones and social media. Be honest, you sort of hate it too. We don't like them but continue to be perplexed by the suggestion of giving them up.We say things like "Oh I know, we just can't do without them now!" as if that's sort of cute, as if the addition isn't very, terrifyingly real, as if it's ok to gormlessly allow them to steer every aspect of our existence (date, eat, document, map, travel, listen, exercise) and pretend it's ok, because everyone else is doing it and we're not all at heroin level addiction and completely and utterly out of control. There's something almost disturbing about the blatant public display of this addiction as well, when did it become ok to tuck our heads and stare and stare and stare at something that is VIRTUAL, locked into the device as we take One. More. Hit.

Well stop it ok?

As I write this under florescent lights with my fingertips touching black snapping plastic, the silent alert lighting up my smartphone on the desk, the thought of social media posts, thousands and millions of social media posts start to float around my head and I wonder: "is it all just a terrible dream?"

Sometimes I fantasise that I will fall into a deep slumber and wake up again in 1992, head resting against a tree, the English countryside stretching out before me, my dog Treacle at my side and I'd say "Oh Treacle, I've had the most peculiar dream! People took pictures of themselves over and over again and then made comments over and over again about everyone else and we stopped writing letters and sent each other space mail and people got money if they were popular enough, and those people took pictures of their bottoms and showed them to everyone!" Then Treacle and I would laugh (how silly) and go looking for four leaf clovers as we walked back home. Today, I am getting on the central line in the dark and going home to, once again, plunder my soul and test the limits of human endurance through dating apps. This is not what Treacle and I planned on our walks.

So, yes I really loathe it. I think what I dislike the most is that our world is now moulded by it, so any deviation from it would make your life much much harder (flashbacks to pre-Uber days, trying to find a cab, half in the bag, Friday night, Whitechapel to go home to Hammersmith! 1:13am. I walked. I had to WALK to Oxford Street to get one). So from that aspect: good. From a, have we lost all connection to our natural surroundings and are programmed into a machine that we have no control over aspect: bad.

Agh, What to do? From a mental health point, we all know that this can't be good for us. We need to somehow unprogramme ourselves, we need to stop BURNING TIME with information that is useless and fleeting and will bring almost no benefit to your future life (IMDB'ing the actors on the Netflix show you are watching and then reading their quotes and watching the trailer for their new film and missing the actual Netflix show, is an excellent example. Checking your Instagram/FB/Twitter every 20 minutes is also an excellent example).

I think the key here is to do something physical, something that you need more than just thumbs to do. Painting: that's what I'm going to do this weekend. I was going to smash 40 episodes of Parks and Recs but no. I'll get that nice chalky painty smell going, glob out some colours, make a bit of a mess, feel something tangible in my hands - look at something in 2D! Nice. I recently visited some friends and helped their children do some painting. At one point Auntie Clarkey was asked to draw a "Shark Duck" they could colour in. I am now convinced that the Shark Duck is one of the greatest artistic visions of all time and I may just spend my weekend perfecting it's representation.

So, a challenge to you, lovely reader: do something tangible this weekend, make something, paint something, build something, write a letter! Doesn't have to be brilliant, or creative, it can be practical, maybe fix something that's broken around the house. Doesn't matter as long as it's away from your smartphone. Just put your phone in a drawer, walk intentionally away and unleash your inner Shark Duck!