By Chhum Chanrachana
As a 90s kid, how did I survive boredom back then without a smartphone?
When I was a kid, my family had a super thick television with a tiny screen at home to enjoy ourselves indoors. But I could say it was useless since the electricity went off pretty often in my neighborhood. My dad also had an old Nokia phone with a classic snake game inside, but I wasn’t allowed to touch that.
So I tried to find other ways to have fun. Going outside to meet my friends was the only choice I had as a kid. When it was play time, I rushed outside to a nearby area with a bag of my cooking utensil toys, cartoon cards, and rubber bands woven together as a long rope. I combined my toys with my friends’, so that we had tons of things to play with. Sometimes we played with the dirt or the clay from the construction site close by, and molded it into different shapes. It might sound nasty but it was fun and basically how we spent our childhood back then.
Compared to nowadays, the old way of having fun has been replaced by smartphones instead. Through them, there are so many options available for our entertainment. Smartphones are now capable of creating almost everything for us to enjoy.
People seem to be busier than ever looking at their phone screen. We spend most of our time posting and updating our social media accounts. We walk, sit, eat, and sleep with our phone nearby. We touch our smart phone at least a few times a day. We never get bored and keep ourselves busy with our phone. And that’s the problem.
When the Cage Begins…
A few days ago, my neighbor’s child had his eyes checked at the hospital. His eyes got so dry because he had been looking at his iPad screen too much. In my own family, during gatherings, I could always hear my niece screaming because her mother took the phone away. If I made my niece choose between a smartphone and going out to play with me, of course, she’ll take the phone over me.
People get addicted to their phone. I admit I’m addicted to it as well. Sometimes, I find myself feeling really anxious after realizing that I haven’t charged my phone the night before, or seeing the last bar of my phone battery turn red.
I feel small being in the crowd when I forget my phone at home. I usually feel the urge to post a picture of my food or my pet online. I find myself scrolling up and down on my social media account with no purpose. I and my friends usually check our phone quietly without saying anything at the lunch table.
We are hooked on our phone way too much. But how is that even possible? Do we really get addicted to the phone? I’ve tried to find the answer to that too.
A study by the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School found that there is actually a relationship between the chemical inside our body called dopamine with our habit in using technology. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical that drives motivation and contributes to forming habits, which is connected to addiction. It is released in response to a reward or compliment we receive, especially the unexpected ones.
The likes and comments we get on our social media post, or the random treasure we find in online games, form a reward system which trigger the dopamine level. This has made us crave for our phone more and more. Later it would form into a habit and finally lead to a real addiction.
Be Aware of the Bubble!
There is also the current structure of the internet that lures us in. The filter bubble function has kept us in an infinite loop of time wasting and isolation.
Have you ever wondered why everything you like keep appearing on your social media? That’s how the bubble works! Actually, the filter bubble isolates the users by personalizing their search on the internet. People are fed with the information they prefer.
This function makes us surround ourselves with what we already know or are interested in, while the thing we should know is being pushed to the corner. There is also a higher chance that we can become more narrow-minded, since we only get information or views that confirms what we think, while ignoring other existing perspectives.
Trapped in the cage
Due to our technology addiction, we sometimes spend time on nothing. We scroll down to see other people’s stories. Their lives seem to be flawless while ours are so messed up. They spend nights at a 5 star hotel while we sleep on a hard cold bed in our tiny rooms. They took a vacation at a beautiful beach while we sit at our working desk all day.
We’ve started to compare ourselves with others in as many ways as possible. We shape our body, our opinion, and our preferences to the things that are the major trend online or on social media. We judge other people online and slowly become afraid of being judged as well. We are trapped in other people’s expectation. Depression begins.
We also complain about our lives online too. We post about the problem and wait for the response. The anxiety increases when we receive only a few likes and comments. The solutions that people give us online don’t work either. This just worsens the situation.
Because we spend too much time on our phone, talking about our problems with friends and families become a bit awkward. While the phone allows us to interact with other people from a distance, we tend to lose contact with people who are close to us. We shut ourselves in the visual world, and seek for the happiness through the smartphone screen. But that kind of happiness is just temporary.
Simple things like playing with our phone could become serious if we are not aware of its harmful effects. It might create an invisible cage to trap you in. Once you’re in, you can’t simply get out.
It’s time to snap out of it. It might be difficult to suddenly stop checking our phone. One thing we could do now is to minimize the time we waste on our phone. Find the alternative ways to have fun without your phone like going out, reading books or even eating with friends.
After reading this article, I hope you guys turn off your phones for a little while and start enjoying the surroundings. That’s enough internet for today, see you next time! 🙂
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.