What exactly happens when we leave our phones behind?
The world is at your fingertips on a phone, but it is a mediated experience. Unplugging for just a few minutes grounds you in the environment immediately around you. It is still a connected experience, but on a different, deeper level.
Consider the spectacle of a thunderstorm. Have you ever just sat and watched one? the lightning strikes and the following rolls of thunder pull you into a silent conversation with your surrounding world.
I noticed one on the horizon the other day and resolved to watch it from my deck. In the quiet, my first instinct was to pull out my phone. It is a drug. The stillness was at first unbearable. Then, the silhouettes of leaves started to dance against the night clouds in a light breeze. Crickets and katydids began warming up for their night symphony. I could feel the breeze, hear the crickets, see the dance of the leaves, and smell the damp summer air. I was immersed in a sensory experience that LEDs cannot replicate. I was connected.
Information is incredible. I do not want to live life without a smart phone, or computers, or the internet. I just want to occasionally experience life without them. Our devices and their constant connectivity are always pulling us out of our immediate experience with emails, messages, and other notifications. Many of us cannot resist the pull. That connectivity should serve us, and yet it seems to have gained mastery over us.
I want my phone to be a tool and not a master. We should take time to silently observe the world around us (if only for a few minutes). Once in a while, we should leave our phones in the car when we go to lunch with a friend. We should occasionally pull off the information superhighway and onto a dirt road.
If you are reading this and you are able, do something “unconnected.” Leave your devices at home and take a walk. Or ride a bike. Just sit on your porch. I am not elaborating on anything you have not heard before. I am just adding my voice to the chorus telling you to unplug and experience the world around you.