On being in the moment

There’s this idea that technology takes us away from the present. Our phones and the internet make it easy to avoid really experiencing what’s around you.

There was a story in the news recently about a man who almost walked right into a bear. When you look at the video, you see the man was staring at his phone and walking down the street without looking up for a long period of time. This is one of those instances where staring at your phone too much can have really dire consequences.

Other news stories and studies on the topic of how our phones and social media affect us tend to point out that we’re interacting less, talking less, and experiencing less of what’s actually around us.

There’s another idea that gruesome images can have a negative effect on people’s moods. For example, if you see a photo of a decapitated puppy every time you browse your phone, you’re probably going to have a bad time. For many of us, simply reading the words describing dead puppies is enough to put a damper on our day.

Things that can have a negative effect on our moods don’t necessarily need to be gruesome. Facebook taught us that when they used us as human guinea pigs in order to see if people who were shown sadder things on their feeds would in fact be sadder. It turns out, Facebook has more of an effect on your mood than you would probably like.

I’m not advocating against phones or the internet or even time-sucking apps like Facebook. Sometimes you’re in a situation you need to take your mind off of. Maybe you’re on public transportation and everyone is coughing or sneezing around you and instead of having a panic attack about all the germs you’re breathing in you scroll through Buzzfeed’s 17 Dogs Hanging Out The Passenger Side Of Their Best Friend’s Ride And Trying To Holler At You article to feel better. Our phones, social media, and the internet in general get a bad rap for being distracting and taking us away from what we should be experiencing. But it’s not social media’s fault.

What we forget about the internet is we can create our own experience. And we can turn it off. If looking at Facebook makes you feel like everyone has their shit together and you don’t and you go home and cry while eating a tub of cookie dough, stop looking at it. Switch that out for something that doesn’t make you feel that way. Google pictures of cute mini pigs instead.

We all need to take a minute after we’re done staring at our screens to evaluate how we feel. We need to actively assess our emotions. I realize this sounds suspiciously like work and doing some thinking which is totally counter to what we’re looking for when we just want to waste time on social media.

But if we’re not stopping to look at the negative and positive effects of our actions and letting those facts change our behaviors, we’re basically addicts.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying you need to be in the moment all the time and trade your phone in for a carrier pigeon. Sometimes the moment can be stressful and unpleasant which can make you feel bad too. I’m suggesting we all take some time to just check up on ourselves. Like a friend would.

A little introspection can go a long way.

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