Hi. Today I am going to do my speech on…
Excuse me one moment.
(Look at phone, smirk, start texting, send text, turn phone off, go to put phone in pocket, phone beeps, hold finger out to audience to say ‘wait one second’. Write another text. Send, power off, Phone in pocket.)
Sorry about that.
What is it about the relationship between people and their phones? Why are we so dependent on these devices?
And ‘What is the true value of your phone?
In my lifetime, I have had a lot of viral relationships. I have 560 friends on Facebook and a lot more unanswered requests. I have liked posts, followed people, commented on photos, shared my stories, sent 10 second snaps and I have exchanged multiple messages with people. However, more than half the people that send me friend requests on Facebook, I don’t know. And half the people that I accept as friends, I wouldn’t recognise if I walked past them on the street.
But maybe that would be because I was too busy looking down at my phone. Too busy to look up, stuck in a bubble of virtual reality.
Once, I had been talking to a friend for about a month via social media before we decided to meet up in person. They were very different to who I had first envisioned and I realised that I too, had not completely been my real self when talking on social media. I had been a lie from the start. As soon as I start a conversation on a device, I cheat myself into becoming somebody I’m not. I appear confident, bubbly and witty when in reality, I am shy, closed and recluse. Positive details are exaggerated and features are embellished.
When communicating through a device, you don’t have any additional anticipation of where the day will lead. You can think clearly and the extra time for a response, makes it much easier to develop sentences and hold a conversation. The distance gives more confidence because you can shrug off any fear that you will not appear the way you want to. On devices, you can think every answer through, so that the exact image of who you want to be, is shown.
This got me thinking, what is the true connection that I have with my ‘friends’ when we can only communicate using a keypad with the option to delete and start again before the other person can know your response? Never to know what the other’s immediate thoughts were and what you would have said if you didn’t’ have time to think about what sentence would appeal.
It is so fake. We can pretend to be people we are not because of the confidence a screen gives; a barrier of real social interaction. However, we never really know the true story. It has been said by Professor Mehrabian that only 7% of communication is based upon the words that we say. When communicating through devices, we are deprived of nonverbal aspects such as body language, distance, real physical appearance- and by that I don’t mean the best looking photo out of the 100 that it took to get it just right… voice quality, rate, pitch, volume, style, rhythm, eye contact, the list goes on. These are all cues that we do not receive through devices, impairing the reality of each other’s connection. Do you really get on or are you just saying what society has told you to? And an emoji does not justify any of that. We are lead to believe these stories and form an image of others, without knowing their true identity. Can we even call them ‘friends’ if we have never met, never exchanged eye contact or never said a spoken word to each other?
In the extreme case, there are many incidents where sexual predators entice insecure teenagers into exploiting their bodies. This year, a 55year old man named Paul Hawker was imprisoned for encouraging a 13-year old girl to share messages and photos. He did this by pretending to be a 15-year old boy and even made an additional fake identity of this boy’s 17 year old sister in order to make the plot more realistic. According to the express and star crime news, he ‘enticed her to perform a sex act, explaining step by step through internet messages what she should do, telling her not to be shy and to send naked photos’. This situation is one of many situations that occur every year. The girl was lucky that her parents stubbled upon her iPad. But some, are not so lucky. Resulting in rape and murder. This indicates our lack of awareness. We are not being aware of our safety, privacy, the idea of good communication and the sharing of concerns and dangerous secrets.
These days, I increasingly notice the number of people attached to their device screens, ignoring the world around them. If you look to the whiteboard, I will now show a video of life situations where the experience has been impaired due to the presence of mobile phones.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OINa46HeWg8 (30sec to 2min)
When we are together with friends and family, we prefer to talk to those online, missing out on the experiences that are at hand. We spend hours together without making eye contact, without having a normal conversation and without engaging with one another. We are together whilst not being together.
We have forgotten to really experience life’s situations. Too busy looking down to notice the opportunities that we miss. Instead we choose to share our moments with as many people as possible to make us feel more important and valued. Grading our self worth by number of likes and devouring in comments of appraisal. We do this instead of making the most of the time we have with others. Real others. The ones who care, who went out of their way to met you. We value our internet friends more. Always a click of comfort away. We are connected but alone.
Devices are hurting our physical communication. According to sms global and the Statistics portal, in the world today, there are roughly 2.1 billion smartphone users. With 7.5 billion people in the world, more than one-quarter of the world’s population has a device and in 2020, it is predicted that there will be 2.87 billion mobile phone users. With this data, you understand why it has become the norm.
One-quarter of the world’s population is a lot of people. All carrying a very similar item in their pockets or bags, often never letting it leave their side. As though it is the most precious thing in the world, as though it’s so special. Yet, how can something mean so much when we all have it? Why do you think you can neglect the time with your own family and friends, for a phone. Produced in a factory by machines, and businessmen, not caring about who lays a hand on it and what implications it will cause to the owner. Who doesn’t care for the destruction of people’s lives. They don’t know you and they are making money so they continue to encourage your consumption of this drug. I ask you to question: what is the true value of your phone? I want you to comprehend that, your phone is not precious enough to damage your education, your relationships, your health and the quality of your life.
The average adult head weighs about 4kg- similar to this pumpkin. In he hunched position which is caused by looking down at your phone, it results in spine angles equivalent to that of an 8year old child sitting on your neck. If I try to tip this pumpkin at the angle we look at our phones, it doesn’t work- you can see the strain that it would cause on our bodies. With the amount of time we spend on our phones and combined with sitting at computers, it has lead to an increase in neck and back problems in NZ.
In a study conducted by British psychologists in 2015, it found that young adults would use their phone, on average, five times per hour with 55 percent of these being short bursts of 30 seconds or less. The average participant checked their phone 85 times per day, equating to 5 hours of device time. That is 1/3 of a person’s total wake hours. Teenagers spend approximately 76 days of the year, on their devices.
The frequent checks of short time span indicate that a lot of our uses do not serve a purpose but it is an automatic behaviour that we been programmed to adhere to. Basically, we are addicted.
This addiction occurs due to the notifications that our phone provides. The idea of new content is seen as a novelty and therefore, the brain is awarded with small bursts of dopamine, creating a compulsion loop which is the same loop responsible for behaviours associated with nicotine and cocaine.
There have been multiple situations where people have died from their cell phone addiction. In March, 2014, a 14 year old girl was killed by a train because of her attachment to her phone. Jenna Betti had been sitting on the tracks before moving when she saw the train coming. However, after noticing she had dropped her phone, she returned to collect it, only to be ‘sucked in by its vacuum’. Jenna sacrificed her life for her mobile phone.
Again, I ask you to question: what is the true value of your phone? Is it worth losing your life and hurting those around you?
The negatives of this addiction extend further than the constant attachment.
Devices emit blue light. Blue light has a shorter wavelength and due to the body’s sensitivity to this light, it is believed to suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that signals our brain that it’s time for bed. Therefore, by using devices, our sleep patterns are affected as it alters our circadian rhythms; diminishing the time spent in deep sleep. Sleep is a crucial component of life and it is during this deep phase, that our body heals and repairs. Sleep is also necessary to consolidate a memory and therefore, good quality sleep aids in the ability to learn. However, when we are sleep deficient, it affects our daytime functioning, hormonal balance, appetite, immune system and susceptibility to disease and heart conditions.
Changes need to be made before it is too late and we become a group of brain-dead individuals. As Gary Turk says in the spoken word film, Look Up, we are becoming a ‘generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people’. In order to create change, we must remove ourselves from the daily distraction of our phones. There are actions that we can all take to defeat the consumers tricks in lassoing us back for more.
As stated before, notifications are made in order to stimulate dopamine and create a compulsion loop. In order to break the loop and return to the reality of your lives, I strongly encourage everyone here today, to turn off ‘notifications’ on your phones and devices.
Studies have shown that the colour red is the most effective at enhancing our attention to detail and this is why the notification button appears red. Did you know that phones have a setting which can turn them to ‘grayscale’? This pigmentation on the screen, reduces the amount of interest on your phone because let’s face it, a black and white phone is not as fun or appealing.
For everybody here with an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone, I now request you to take it out. The reason why I am encouraging you to do this action that I have been speaking to deter you of is because, I wish to avoid the ephemeral or fleeting impact that lasts a day or two but ensure I have a sustainable influence that lasts a lifetime. That when you leave here today, you unshackle your connection to your phone and you are no longer a slave to technology. I hope this freedom will last for your lifetime and even after weeks have gone by, you are still determined to avoid the force field that is creating us humans, into addicted robots.
So, for all apple users, please follow my steps on the screen behind. Go to ‘Settings’…For iPhone users, go to the ‘General’ section… Then scroll down to find ‘Accessibility’. Now turn the grey scale on.
For Samsung users, it should be under ‘vision’ in your settings.
Now, ‘Power Off’.
Turn those I’s off. It is now time to become ‘us’.
There are many other things we can do to reduce this addiction. Start by making 1hr before bed, device free. Try picking up a book instead. Leave your phone at home for the day.
With 93% of 18-29 year olds in a survey reporting that they use their phone as a way to avoid boredom, try being more involved in activities. If you get bored, go kick a ball or draw a picture.
I will now show you a video. Although it is a cartoon, there are aspects that directly reflect our world today.
I hope today, that you become aware of your dependence on your device and the relationship that you have with it. It is important that we understand the mental drainage that it causes. It is important that we are aware of the experiences we miss. It is important that we understand the setbacks that our phones cause. It is important that we think about the serious implications a device can have on some people’s lives. It is important that you think about the interference that it has on your life. By turning our phones off or at least by setting boundaries or setting limits on usage time, we can have more interaction with others and become more productive. We begin to live our lives to the fullest, experiencing all situations instead of being consumed by what happens elsewhere. We no longer live life through a device but start to indulge in life’s experiences and moments; not being fake or pretending to have something that is not real.
Question. Question what situation you have. Question what situation you want.
And I ask you to question: What is the true value of your phone?