A year or two ago, the Gotham Gal and I were at dinner and were seated next to a young couple. It wasn’t clear if the young couple were on a date, or they were in a relationship, or they were married. We didn’t ask. But they were on their phones for the entire dinner. They did not talk to each other much, if at all. That scene bothers me. I see it all the time in one way or another.
My mobile phone addiction has waned over the years. The worst was the early Blackberry years of the late 90s. I couldn’t keep my Blackberry in my pocket. It was not good. I learned over time how to manage the addiction and by the time the smartphone arrived, I had largely conquered that urge to pull the phone out to distract, disengage, and go somewhere else. I still do it, but I am aware of the urge, and resist it constantly.
Last weekend, we arrived at a restaurant early for a dinner with a friend. The place was packed and the area around the bar was jammed. They asked us to wait at the bar until our table was free and our friend arrived. We were getting pushed and bumped into. Waiters and waitresses were constantly asking to get through. It was not pleasant. We couldn’t even get to the bar to order a drink. I felt this powerful urge to pull out my phone and distract myself from all of that craziness. But I decided to keep my phone in my pocket and just stand there and be present in the chaos. So that’s what I did. But that urge to pull out the phone was powerful. It’s a drug like any other drug.
I see my kids and their generation struggle with this addiction. When a text comes in, they can’t ignore it. They have to grab the phone and see who it is. And as the conversation goes on, they can’t put the phone down even if there are people in the room they can easily converse with. And it is not just the generation that grew up with a phone in their pocket. It is all of us.
The worst of it is in the car. Texting and driving is a scourge. We must find a solution to that. Maybe its a societal movement, like the way we have approached drunk driving. Or maybe its a technological solution. I’ve written about that before.
Having a powerful computer in our pocket that is connected to billions of computers in other pockets in real time is the reality of our time. And it is a drug. And we are all addicted to it in some ways. Being aware of the addiction and working on controlling it has helped me a lot over the years and I encourage everyone to work on it. You can either control it or it will control you.