OBLIVION (noun) : the state of being unaware or unconscious of what is happening around one (ref : Oxford Dictionaries)
I was never cool. Not even back in the supposed heyday of my 20s and 30s. Nope, not even close. To qualify as cool you need to be unimpressed by pretty much everything and that was never me. Ebullient types like me – the eager ones – were decidedly un-cool. And so it is today I find myself still inhabiting the domain of the un-cool, well outside the desired circle of hipness, resolutely marching to the beat of my own drum out on the periphery and this is never more evident than when I visit my morning coffee haunt. That`s because every single person there, whether they are seated at a table or standing on the footpath waiting to grab their takeaway brew, is buried in their phone. Except me. I must seem like a curious oddity to the others, a quaint anachronism. Oh wait! Nobody is noticing my phonelessness because they are all buried in their smartphones. Love it! Invisible in my un-cool, but this preponderance of the Phone People – the cool au courant – is to be seen absolutely everywhere and quite honestly I worry for them.
‘au courant’ literally : in the current / meaning : up-to-date
Distraction and diversion : I guess smartphones are the perfect companion for the shy, the introverted and those who are just plain avoidant. I wonder if the cool au courant – the perpetually connected – feel super-relieved to escape reality once they have ordered their coffee because they seem to need to dive straight back into their device, resuming habitation of that limbo state of the cyber non-world. Do the Phone People like being in resistance to their immediate circumstance? Gazing fixedly into their device they lean into another place – any place but right here – hiding in plain sight yet belonging in the right way because everyone else is doing it too. I contemplate whether inside the sphere of the cool au courant they dismiss the concept of staying present to the now moment. They seem not to need it. The Phone People seem somehow to prefer the reductive and depreciative experience of oblivion that is life in cyberspace and the ceaseless cacophony of social media and the apps and the newsfeeds and the blah blah blah. To me, out here on the margin it resembles a state of oblivion because the Phone People are neither one place nor the other.
Savouring the now moment with all its beauty, openness, wisdom, vulnerability and creativity is seemingly not for the cool au courant. The Phone People are missing all the sensory wonder and magic and mystery of the present. Maybe they feel this concept is only suited to the self-indulgent navel-gazers. Staying present to one`s immediate experience – known as mindfulness – is synonymous with being in a state of acceptance, but do the Phone People see this as passive and wimpy, I wonder? Intentionally paying attention, observing the minutiae and noticing the gifts of grace in the actual physical world is perhaps not stimulating enough for the Phone People. Maybe the cool au courant are way more comfortable in sensory contraction, the stupor of the disconnect?
Buddhists, Taoists, yogis, the ancient and indigenous cultures and the great and wise teachers (too many to name here) universally extol the benefits of staying present to the now moment. They all emphasize that this simple practice of mindfulness – conscious awareness – underpins the robustness of our spiritual and mental health. For me, staying present and mindful in the now is the optimal precondition for moving into a space of peace, trust and flow. It is detachment and it is liberation. Relaxing fully into the present moment allows the human energy field to expand, opening up our connection to the subtle realms, in turn allowing access to greater creativity and deeper joy. Mindfulness allows the individual to feel at one with the whole ; it relegates the ego and lulls overthinking. But maybe this is all a bit boring for the Phone People. Phone People appear to me to be immersed in their own little bubble and totally separate yet ironically the chief feature and selling point of the smartphone is connectedness. I`m not sure the Phone People are connected at all. Have we all been conned into a state of faux-connection?
The collective nose-thumb by the Phone People is almost sexy. Who gives a damn about neck problems, premature myopia and disruption to melatonin production caused by the blue light emitting from their screen, right? The cool au courant clearly are not worried about blocked Chakras, digitally-induced anxiety and the obligation to always be connected to their phone. They are more likely to feel stressed-out and uptight but I guess that is scarcely relevant inside the circle of the perpetually connected because the Phone People are probably unconscious of being unconscious. Here in Australia we are seeing a spike in the rate of diagnosis of anxiety, Depression and an increase in youth suicide. I find myself wondering if these statistics are the wretched curse of smartphone addiction.
Personally, out here on the fringe and well removed from the envied circle of cool, I have never really understood tech addiction. The advantages of cell phones are self-evident but I just don`t like taking mine with me everywhere I go. I don`t want the thing running my day and taking over my life. I have found that focussing on that little screen for too long ungrounds me. It makes me feel off balance and out of kilter.
I have heard it said that youngsters today are now conditioned to communicate in a whole different way and that this is positive evolutionary change. Hmmm….I remain skeptical. A survey of 500 university students in the U.S. found that frequent smartphone usage is directly related to anxiety, happiness, and academic performance and all of it negative. Kent State University found that “…high frequency cell phone users tended to have lower Grade Point Average, higher anxiety, and lower satisfaction with life (happiness) relative to their peers who used the cell phone less often. The statistical model illustrating these relationships was highly significant.” (as at January 2015)
Expansive and healing activities such as a short daily practice of meditation and time spent down at the local park or in nature (without their devices!) would be of immense benefit to the Phone People. Simply bringing awareness to the breath swiftly reconnects us to the present moment and our immediate physical experience and anchors us back into our center. Being in nature allows Earth`s nourishing and positive energy to ground us, restoring balance and strengthening our physical connection to Earth`s subtle electrical fields. These are simple remedies and effective antidotes to digital overload, should the Phone People hold that intention.
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