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    PSA: Put Down the Damn Phone

    When did going out socially turn into isolation?

    Have you been out lately and looked around? Maybe thought, “OMG, everyone is on their goddamned phones.”

    I’m not being sadistic. I’m talking about the inability of anyone to communicate without a damn phone in their hand. And not just online – I mean, like always being preoccupied with someone else. Or somewhere else. Or someone else’s lives on Facebook, Instagram or email.

    Statistically, Americans are using their iPhones more than ever.  It’s not just an observation walking around… uh… anywhere. In January, more Americans accessed the internet from tablets and smartphones rather than their good ol’ computers.

    First things first: My Love for the iPhone Soliloquy

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE you iPhone. I remember patiently waiting with my simple text and “call” phone until Apple allowed Verizon customers for the privilege to own one. (That was a thing.)

    Plus, you’re amazing! You’re with me everyday. I can push your button and hear Siri’s sassy responses about who won the Penn State game yesterday, track my city runs, plan my outfit for the weather, tweet, text and even score a date with a few taps. (I’ll save the question of dating gamification for another day, however.)

    I couldn’t quit you if I wanted to. My job is in Social Media, so I help companies Facebook, Tweet, Pin, Insta and Link in. A lot. Plus, I can blog from you, too. And I’ll come clean: I can’t keep my hands off of you. In the process of writing this blog post, I’ve sent 6 texts and a snapchat. It’s insane that most of my life can be run from tapping your smooth screen.

    But I do try to keep you hidden when out with friends. I’ll admit it – you may even be on the table sometimes when I’m out, too. I’m not totally innocent. But, I spend so much time with you that I occasionally need a break. Sorry, I just can’t date you like Joaquin Phoenix did.

    iPhone addiction home & away

    Ok, Ok. Now that I got that out of the way, we must get straight to the ugly.

    We all used to have that one friend who was constantly texting on their phone. It didn’t matter if it’s at a bar, in class or a funeral. Like their iPhone was an appendage that couldn’t be cut off.

    But we’ve all taken on a spectrum of that friend. Whether it’s FOMO or conceptually being available, people depend on those 5 inches of technology.

    This past summer, I took an incredible trip to Ireland and Iceland for 10 days with 3 of my best girlfriends. We cheered on Penn State at Croke Park in Dublin. We ventured on black sand beaches and glacier lagoons on the same day in southeast Iceland. We spent hours driving across a foreign country talking about our lives, dreams, friends and families. To say it was fun would be an understatement: It was beyond incredible.

    Reynisfjall cliffs by Vik, Iceland. I wasn't exaggerating about the scenery.
    Reynisfjall cliffs by Vik, Iceland. I wasn’t exaggerating about the scenery.

    Yet there were moments of the trip where we’d be in a bar and I’d be texting with the guy I was dating-at-the-time back home. Or our friend would coincidentally frequent a certain cafe because she could FaceTime her boyfriend. Or we’d all be racing to our WiFi connection of-the-day to our Instagram accounts to upload insanely gorgeous photos for the interwebs.

    I studied abroad in London as a College Junior in 2005 and declare that was one of the best times of my life: little responsibility mixed with life-changing experiences. But something shifted from the Julie in Europe in those 9 years, and a chunk of it was my dependence on technology. It progressed from “I guess I’ll email my parents this week” to “Everyone must see my best photos today on Instagram.”

    Weird how much things in a few years, right?

    can we Unplug and Be Present now?

    Emily Leaman recently shared a beautiful piece about unplugging from her work email for 2 weeks on vacation. But, we shouldn’t have to go to exotic, gorgeous places to turn off technology.

    One way to enjoy convo with our friends for an hour is to threaten them with picking up a few hundred dollar tab. The phone stacking game works like this: everyone puts their technological appendages in the middle of table for dinner. The first person to pick up their phone has to pay for the entire bill.

    phone stacking game
    Phone stacking at its finest. Photo by brixton at Creative Commons.

    There’s even apps now to explore your city and have “real experiences”. So, we now need apps to experience life. Am I the only one who sees the irony of that?!

    Being more connected isn’t making us happier. Frequent cell phone use is linked to unhappiness and anxiety. Facebook and social media makes us envy our friends, increase FOMO and even depression. As psychologist Timothy Wilson has shared to the New Yorker that we don’t know what to do without technology.

    “One would think we could spend the time mentally entertaining ourselves. But we can’t. We’ve forgotten how.”

     So what does make us happy?

    Ironically enough, it often comes down to relationships. I’m talking about real-life, in person interactions. Like having dinner with friends, going for a run with your bud or even a Orange is the New Black marathon with your roommate. And experiences, like seeing your first glacier with your best friends in the world.

    According to the Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner (which I ironically read across Iceland), the jist of the happiness formula comes down to relationships, experiences and a little bit of money. There’s more to the book, which I highly recommend reading.

    So even when you’re traveling to insanely gorgeous lands, it’s your company that will make the trip worthwhile.

    Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon Iceland
    What made this trip so amazing: these lovely ladies.


    So put your phone in your purse or pocket and have a conversation with people. Your friends, your family. Having trouble? Don’t be afraid to give them a gentle reminder to put down the phone, too.

    Whether you’re in Reykjavik or Philly, you’ll be happier. Just trust me.

    Now if you don’t mind, I have to check my texts I missed while I was finishing this post.


    Readers, how do you balance technology & your social encounters? Tell us in the comments.

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    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

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