distracted

A Million Digital Pieces: A Cell Phone Addict Speaks Out

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I recently came across a tweet from the Huffington Post that caught my attention: “Distracted Driving is Rampant across America.” I clicked on it because I am – sigh gasp blush – a part of this rampant craze sweeping the country. I’ll even go so far as to admit that I can’t even remember the last time I got behind the wheel without my iPhone within texting distance (e.g. in my hand). But that’s not even the worst of it. Because I am currently suffering from an even more all-encompassing condition: Distracted Living.

I’ve had an unhealthy attachment to my phone for many years now. Pretty much since I got my very first Samsung my junior year of high school in 2003. Back in those dinosaur ages, my phone was considered awesome because it was in color and I could download specialty ringtones. (Pretty groovy, huh?) It didn’t even have e-mail, let alone Facebook or Instagram. Just good ol’ fashioned phone calls and text messages. But even that was enough to get me hooked.

A decade later, I need my phone the way Snoop Dogg needs marijuana. Or A-Rod needs steroids. Or Grandma Myrtle needs her slot machines. And I don’t just mean that figuratively. Because according to David Greenfield, the founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction,* cell phones actually create similar responses in the brain to drugs and gambling. Just thinking about receiving messages can raise dopamine levels, and actually hearing that “ping” or seeing that banner notification releases even more. That’s why most of us find it so difficult to put our phone in the trunk when we’re driving, even though we know we should. Heck, just typing that made my eye twitch.

While the dangers of Distracted Driving are pretty frickin’ obvious and difficult to argue – YOU COULD CRASH AND KILL PEOPLE – the ramifications of Distracted Living are somewhat less pronounced. But much more insidious. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  1. Distracted Living is bad for your love life.

Ever go on a date and both of your cell phones are on the table? Or maybe you’re able to keep it in your purse, but some time around the middle of eating your filet mignon you absolutely must excuse yourself to the bathroom to check your Twitter feed in a stall? This has happened to me. A lot. And it keeps me from having a fully connected experience with my romantic interest. Perhaps one of the reasons I’m still single. Fail. (And don’t even get me started on phones and sexy time. I’ve definitely been making out with a guy and the second I hear my hear that buzzing all I can think is What if it’s my agent?! Mood. Killer.

  1. Distracted Living interrupts your sleep cycle.

I only recently began switching my phone to silent mode instead of vibrate when I turn off the light at night, but even this doesn’t prevent my cell phone from screwing up my REMs. My brain is so desperate for Instagram likes that I now find myself waking up every few hours like an infant in need of breast milk. Last night I reached for my phone not once, not twice, but three times. As if the activity on Snapchat at 3am is more important than my dream of marrying Josh Hartnett. NOPE!

  1. Distracted Living causes you to miss important moments.

The other day while one of the women in our short film was dancing, I was so busy looking for my phone to try and take a picture of it that I missed the moment entirely. Oh, the irony. And although it wasn’t the end of the world, (I watched the second take), imagine if this happened while my future daughter was taking her first steps. Or my grandmother was taking her last breath.** Even just missing little things like plot points in a movie because I’m checking a Facebook comment are unfortunate, and can make for a confusing / less meaningful evening.

  1. Distracted Living hinders you in your purpose.

Whether your purpose is to fight Ebola or raise a family or write a super cool blog of random essays, texting/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Vine/Gmail/Whatsapp/Snapchat/Any Other Social Media Platform will not help you with this. Sure, it can help spread awareness, but it will not actually lead you to a cure, or feed your children, or put words on the page (except in this case, since I’m writing about it. Oh man, too meta.) If you want to actually accomplish something beyond retweets and likes, it’s important to maintain focus and stay dialed out. I’m gonna go out on a limb and bet that Yo-Yo Ma doesn’t take breaks from his cello every five minutes to check his Galaxy S5.

Okay, so this all sounds pretty horrible, right? Well, it is. Take it from someone who just checked her phone no less than 15 times while writing this essay. It’s taking everything in me not to look at it right now. ARGGGGG.

But here’s the thing. And this is important. As debilitating as Distracted Living can become, it’s never too late to overcome it. If Robert Downey Jr. can go from drug addict to Iron Man, I can certainly go from iPhone abuser to person living in the present. In fact, I already do it naturally every time I go overseas.*** But I don’t want to have to cross an ocean every time I wish to experience Focused Living. Which is why I’m going to break my addiction.

From today onward, I’m committing myself to small steps to rewire my social media riddled brain. Starting with that most serious of offenses: Distracted Driving. My phone is going in my purse which I’m zipping up and putting in my backseat. It’s not like I don’t still have Bluetooth for all those “emergencies.” I’m also going to leave it behind when I’m working out. I don’t need an update from CNN touting the benefits of exercise while I’m in the middle of exercising. (Plus, the sweat makes it difficult to use the touchscreen.) And instead of having my phone next to me while I’m writing or working on sides for an audition, I’m turning it off and practicing Attentive Creating. That way I won’t-

Oh shoot, my mom’s calling. TTYL!

*I wonder if they offer outpatient services… I should probably go look it up on the Internet and then make a phone call.

**Capturing this would be super creepy. But you know what I mean.

***Something about the new surroundings. And the time off work. And the cost of an international data plan.

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