From selfies to tree-hugging – How much I gained after losing my smartphone

By: Tasja Nielsen

So how do we define an epidemic? I looked up the term and here's what I've got: “Epidemic: a rapid spread or increase in the occurrence of something”.

What I will share with you guys this time around, is me braining over the concept of “modern epidemics” and what effect they may have on our social interaction these days.

The first epidemic tendency I would like to trash a bit is, the smartphone.

Now you might think that I'm just another hippie who doesn't welcome the new era of brave technology, and that I should just give in and go with the flow. But no. I tried the smartphone, with touchscreen and everything. It wasn't for me.

At first it was very exciting with all the app's, games, picture sharing, skype and stuff. You could go on Facebook whenever, you could upload pictures whenever, you would never get lost since google maps was your handy helper all the time. So there were basically no need for real social interaction at all.

Why would I ask a stranger for direction, when I could just type in my destination and go? Why would I start conversations with people on the metro, when I could just look down in my screen and get all the entertainment I wanted? Why would I lock eyes with the cute guy on the bus, when I could just look at cute guys all over the internet?

The thing is. I just didn't. I had my virtual reality right in my hand, and my reality became more and more on the illusive scene of cyberspace.

So I had a smartphone, yes, for about 3 years. I was so tangled in with my phone, that I was never really present in my environment. Dangerous love-affair right there. I was busy playing games, replying texts, looking at pictures, videos and other random stuff, so I became more and more distanced.

And I realized that other people did to. Mothers not talking to their children, couples not having any real facetime, young people taking photos ALL THE TIME and snapchatting away.

When I was talking to my girlfriends, it was not a rare event that they would just pull out their phone in the middle of an serious conversation and start facebooking. Sadly it was normal behaviour. I realize now, that it is a very rude gesture, and I apologize for my previous misconduct.

The fatal day came, and my smartphone didn't answer to my gentle touches anymore. It didn't react to my rough touches either. I felt amputated in so many ways.

But why? How bad was it really? I couldn't check facebook, no. I couldn't use google maps, no. I couldn't upload pictures all the time either. So I felt like my cyber-self suffered, and that's a weird sentence in so many ways.

“Cyber-self”. How distanced can one become, and how different is the cyber-self from the reality of ones “self” ?

When I still had a smartphone I didn't wonder so much about it. Now I see that there was a big freaking difference from the online and offline version of me, and others too I guess.

In retrospective I see the blooming of a new self for me, without my smartphone, and without the eternal sharing-opportunity. Both on and offline. My view on, what is relevant to post has changed a lot.

From thinking that me getting a new earring was the number one excitement for everyone on my social network, I now feel a bit more obligated to share real knowledge and not just trying to boost my fictional online-image.

I don't post an update about the horrible stormy weather anymore. Now I go climbing trees in that weather, getting roughed up by this invisible force called wind. Instead of photographing the sunset, I now experience it. Feeling the precious photons on my skin and remembering the beauty of the real world. I don't have the urge to involve everyone in my every business all the time. I've gotten selective and that's very nice. Quality over quantity and relevancy over repetition. My online and offline character have almost found each other, and the differences between the two has decreased.

With that said, my online-persona is still an edited version of my self, but my conscious choices of uploads, has reduced the gap between the two. 

It's an ongoing mission for me, to get a resonance between the online Tasja and the offline Tasja, and I really feel that letting go of the smartphone, has brought me closer to my own core.

I wish other people would do as well. Just imagine if all the time spend on taking and uploading random selfies, was spend on some sort of social work instead? It may sound like some sort of utopian dream, but I really do hope that more folks will get off their asses, get off their smartphones and face the world. The real world.

I downgraded on my next phone, got one with actual buttons, a shitty camera and no internet access. And I'm happy, still. Happy and here!

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