Your Phone Is Not Your Friend

Welcome to episode two of my Orcas Island video series, in which we hike my favorite little mountain: Turtleback.

Lately I’ve been hiking Turtleback almost every day. It is a cutie patootie of a mountain, just 1,500 feet. I can reach the summit in about 30 minutes. It’s a nice little workout and the views are very rewarding. From Ship Peak, hikers can see Canada, dozens of islands, the Olympics, and much of Orcas Island.

In the video I mention that your phone is not your friend and it doesn’t want you to be happy. It works like this: enjoying life requires experiencing life as it happens. This is a thing called “being present.” When you’re paying attention to life, you can take note of all the things to be happy about: natural beauty, the kindness of others, the good fortune of your birth.

And then this thing in your pocket dings and vibrates erotically and suddenly your mind is shifted to all the violence in the world (thanks, news app), the nervous chatter and mad ravings of your friends (ahem, Facebook), that email you think you need to attend to RIGHT NOW (hint: you do not)…and SO ON.

Your phone is the opposite of being present. Your phone is the opposite of meditating. Your phone is the opposite of being happy.

I find that awareness is power. So I’m not suggesting you throw out for phone. I’m suggesting you pay attention when it tugs you out of the present. Or when it possesses your hand, zombie-like, and suddenly you find yourself scrolling through your phone. Take note: Huh, that happened.

Only when you are aware can you make choices about how much you want your phone in your life.

Orcas Island, with its notoriously bad cell service, taught me to live without my phone. And I haven’t died, from lack of Facebook, lack of news, or otherwise. On the contrary, I’ve found myself less anxious, less distracted…and happier to just sit, to enjoy a sunset, a hike, a chat with a real life human friend.

Try this right now. Hit the silent button on your phone. Put it facedown on a table or what not. It is now rendered harmless. If something happens on Facebook I assure you it doesn’t matter. Breaking news? If you really need to know about it (generally you do not), someone will tell you. Text message? It can wait.

Written on my iPhone 6. Just kidding.

More information

I was very much inspired by episode of the Sam Harris podcast in which he interviews digital ethicist Tristan Harris.

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