Shut your phone, open your eyes.

The article of the week, right here, Beat Your iPhone Addiction by Dana Mark.

I am no mother of three, but I can relate to this. I am no wonderworker at unplugging myself from tech devices as well. In fact, I am guilty of being more plugged in than I wish for myself to be, especially since I ditched the clunky Android and got the sleek abomination that is the iPhone. It is an undeniable fact how this gadget of a smartphone has allowed me to be more efficient in keeping up with all the crazy reading that I do, without having to lug ten kilograms of paper around in my bag, and has also enabled me to read the news without having my fingers smell or smudged with those hideous black marks courtesy of the old school newspaper. I mean, compared to all those inconveniences, myopia and astigmatism are tiny pieces of cake, right?

I am no mother of three, but I don’t think most of us needs to become mothers in order to relate to this issue. There is no longer a need for people to throw rocks on trains and buses these days to hit someone whose eyes are glued to their phones. It has become incredibly safe to assume that all of them are, and that those who aren’t are either sleeping or have already drove their phone batteries flat.

I don’t think we need to be parents to agree that there is something wrong with the photos above. If you don’t think there is a problem, well, you have a much more serious problem than those who do.

The tips in the article were written with the context of you having a kid, but I think they apply to people who don’t have kids as well. Just take out the word “kids”. Let me try re-writing them and writing some more.

Some Tips to Beat your Smartphone Addiction

(Partly adapted from Dana Mark’s article)

1. Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock. Set your alarm using a real alarm clock. I hope you still remember what they are. Most of them are round, with a button on top, a clock face in front and equipped with the ability to raise the sleeping from their slumbers with a sound shrill. You will be surprised how much unproductive time you will save frolicking in bed if you aren’t swiping some touchscreen and don’t have to resist the urge to check for messages and browse through updates that have rolled on in through the night.

2. No phones for anyone on the way to school. For most of my readers who are quickly approaching the end of their tertiary education career, take the much needed time to relish in those moments of one’s commute to school. Commuting to work will never feel the same. Look out the windows when you’re on buses or trains. You know, those scenery, it really bums them out now that people are so attracted to their phones that they have been made to feel like they don’t matter. Or you could catch 5-10 minutes of quiet time with yourself. Think about your plans for the day (if you’re heading out) or some reflection of your day (if you’re going home). Don’t sleep. Sleeping on commutes throws your consciousness directly off the scale of calm. But if you have a liking for being lethargic and disorientated when you get jerked awake spontaneously by emergency brakes courtesy of buses and trains, feel free to go for it.

3. Don’t respond to a text in the middle of a conversation. I don’t hate people who do this. I have done it several times myself. Some of my friends do this. My sister does this. I don’t hate them (and myself). It just really doesn’t feel good to be the human in close physical distance and to have someone who is not, to be chosen over the one who is, to be the one responded to and engaged with. Most texts can wait. For texts that absolutely cannot wait because someone’s life is hanging in the balance while waiting for your reply, please inform the human in close physical distance to stop talking first or to stop waiting futilely for your dialogue response, before you reply your text.

4. Don’t make playing phone games a habit. I know some of them are supposed to make you smart. If you are really smart though, don’t play them. I am a recent victim of 2048, but I had a horrifying sense of epiphany after I reached the 2048, which reminded me yet again of the horrifying sense of epiphany I have had when I played many games before this, even before phone app games became a thing. You see, the app announced really jubilantly that I now am eligible to aim for 4096 … It sparked off the depressing thought of, “Okay, when is it going to end?” But that is the thing that keeps addicts going back and hunting for that high. A habit of playing phone games is essentially every bit as much an addiction as those that involve drugs, alcohol and nicotine. Every phone game is just another excuse for distraction. It is entertainment masquerading as self-improvement and learning opportunities. The sense of emptiness will continue to plague you despite you stuffing it with another new phone game. It will only truly be gone if you stop thinking of it as a habit you go through every day. Games that are truly rewarding exist outside the virtual realm. Use the time spent on playing phone games to polish up on the social emotional intelligence that many people today have a terrible deficiency in. Unfortunately, that means you will have to interact more with real humans, like your parents, siblings, relatives and friends. Reacquaint yourself with the ability to talk, the capacity to listen and self-regulate. You will not get that on or from a device.

5. When you walk in the door, don’t be using your phone. Finish your conversation or text exchange outside the door. When you get home, look up and see who is at home. Say hello to whoever is at home. Say a few words and let them know you are still capable of fighting the temptation to become one of those robotics. If you’re not ready for that, come home later. Plug into your family when you’re there. (However, if you happen to be the first one to reach home, go ahead and party.)

6. No devices at meals. Period. And we have progressed till the stage whereby it is better to watch the television than your smartphones while eating, when that was frowned upon just a decade ago. Such progress. Eating with people is becoming increasingly awkward these days, especially with family and non-best-friends friends, because we have gotten so used to not engaging with people enough that we have gradually forgotten how to be in ourselves without having phones to couch distraction in. Losing touch with the art of conversation is quickly becoming one of the great maladies that plague modern life.

7. Don’t deal with your phone as you are getting ready to go to bed. I hope you have read your fair share of scientific studies that have shown an inverse relationship between the quality of sleep and the amount of time spent with phones in the two-hour period before bed. I don’t know about you, but personally I don’t care much about the quantity of my sleep. I care most about the quality.

8. Evaluate your personal values about technology. It is terrifying how many parents are allowing their kids to use their smartphones and tablets without educating them properly about what those gadgets are capable of, or even what technology means. Just because the kids are young and purportedly “incapable of understanding”, which by extension means “it can’t be detrimental to them”, and that we are living in a technologically advanced era, is no excuse for not taking the initiative to try our best to educate children about the larger significance of technology and the Internet, citing reasons like, “Well, it’s what they need to learn to use!” That’s not a permissible lack of disclosure. That is neglect. I think all of us, not just parents and children, need to think more about the roles and rules of technology in our lives. Kindness needs to be prized over the snarky, witty, fast responses of online banter. One’s capacity for solitude, the ability to reconnect with ourselves without feeling anxious or bored, is what will drive us into becoming better human beings, before we connect with others.

Don’t get me wrong, I think technology is a wonderful thing. It is a remarkable system of wonders that harbours endless potential for more wonders. It symbolises the incredible wealth that is human intelligence, and it marks the tremendous progress of human innovation. A good chunk of our education and significant parts of our lives are now intricately linked with the use of technology.

Technology had a terrific start, and it remains a terrific source of innovation and creativity, but now problems of misuse and overuse are causing it to become this potential source of terror that most people seem to be choosing to ignore while they continue to submit themselves to being distracted by the spawns of technology.

What irks me the most is that many people are placing the advantages of technology on a pedestal with unapproachable height, and neglecting to evaluate the vices borne out of it. They agree, yes, technology has resulted in some harmful things going on, but then they continue to engage in behaviours that not only perpetuate those harmful effects for themselves, but also influence the impressionable young minds of children.

It is not about a complete unplugging of your gadgets and yourself.

It is about knowing when and how much to plug in.

March mayhem.

It is now past mid-March.

Now, before we digress into the perennial riddle of the passage of time in life — the “how did we get here already?!” — I need to direct your attention to some other truly important issues.

I think many people would agree with me that one of the best ways to put age into perspective is to have a newborn enter your life. When you have a zero-year-old tiny human in your arms, it is difficult to escape this profound sense of age in life seeping into your mind.

Apart from her regular cries of genuine need (only newborns have the right to be authentically innocently demanding) that now dictate the airwaves in my house, things at home remain quite peaceful. In fact, everything seems even more peaceful than before, because, apparently, being in the presence of a newborn, who has pretty much no perceivable ability to judge us, makes people go into their most well-behaved mode, what with speaking in mild, gentle tones and trying their best to say silly things to stimulate the baby to react with some form of facial expressions that the adults can then interpret on non-baby terms. Such simple-minded folks we are!

But, honestly, compared to all the horror tales I have heard about babies who scream their heads off deep into the middle of the night, my niece is being one of the most wonderful tiny humans I have ever seen.

I know everyone adores babies for their unworldly cuteness that has yet to be tainted by the nasty dirt that permeates the current state of humanity in this terrible world that we live in today. It is important to indulge in marvelling at their pleasantly clean slate of life, because it puts our overwhelmingly disordered phases of life into perspective. Yes, we have been through terrible things, and life in general seems to feel unbearably shitty every other hour of the day, but, hey, look at how far you have come. You used to be this tiny bundle of defenceless being with blotchy skin and no teeth.

Other than the gruelling vice-like grip over my life courtesy of my final-year research project, I am hobbling through this mayhem that is March considerably fine.

I hope you, my friends, are doing considerably fine as well. Relativity is not just one of the grand theories that the genius that is Einstein came up with. It is one of the core concepts that will help you not lose sight of your perspectives as you hop and hobble through life.

Let us continue Marching on.