Last weekend I was sitting down at the beach with my mate Jack, enjoying the simple things in life. The ocean, sunshine, those deeper conversations that only really occur when you create the time and space with the right people. Before too long the conversation turned back to 2012 when Jack decided to start the campaign which is now known as Fone Free Feb. A campaign that is designed to encourage people to disconnect from technology to properly connect with the people around them.
Now that doesn’t sound too difficult does it? Why would anyone use their phones whilst they’re talking with their mates? Well a recent mobile consumer study conducted by Deloitte reports that 88% of us admit to using our phones whilst speaking with friends and 91% of 18-24 year olds use their smartphone while spending ‘quality time’ with Mum and Dad.
So why does this all matter then? Phones are helping us to more quickly and easily communicate with each other, to stay connected with friends and family around the world and to access information in a second. How could this possibly be a bad thing?
Well it’s not actually the phones fault that we’re choosing to engage with it in an unhealthy and harmful way. It’s our choice.
We are all so caught up in looking good in selfies, getting matches on tinder and getting what we want exactly when we want it, that we’ve forgotten the importance of the simple things in life outside of our smart phone.
We’re all, young people especially, are so caught up in the digital world, which is not no different from the physical world, that we are missing out on developing life’s most important skills. Face to face communication, relationships building, resilience and persistence just to name a few.
We are living in a world in which we have endless opportunities. We have all and any information at the tip of our fingers and the ability to send messages (positive or negative) far and wide. However, nobody is teaching us how to handle this new found and unwarranted power. We are giving young people a loaded weapon with the ability to cause serious damage but we’re not giving them the skills to handle it with control.
As many of us know one in four young people suffer from mental ill health yet only 20 – 30% of these young people have the confidence, ability or power to get the help that they need. The number one killer of young people in Australia is suicide and the suicide rate is at a ten year high.
The recent Mission Australia survey of young Australians reported that Mental Health is now one of the top three issues of concern for young people. Reachout.com just released a survey indicating that one in four young people experience bullying and 25% of that occurs online.
Now I’m not about to blame these shocking statistics entirely on your smartphone however when we now spend more time on our phones each day than we do sleeping, it’s pretty hard not to draw parallels between the two.
In 2017 there is no way for us to distinguish between the digital and physical worlds so we need to start facing up to that fact and focus on building the skills to deal with this reality. And this is exactly what Fone Free Feb is all about. It is an opportunity to take back those important moments in life when you can actually stop, have a conversation and be in the moment.
It’s a month to reconsider the way in which we engage with our smartphones. So let’s take some minutes, hours or even days this Feb to disconnect so we can reconnect with the things that are most important to us. Friends, family, nature; whatever it may be for you.
70 years ago we used to pump our young people with cigarettes because we didn’t realise that they were actually killing us all. We have lost generations of people to what we now know as ‘cancer sticks’ but we have finally managed to learn from our mistakes and now you can’t smoke a dart without getting dirty looks from everyone around you.
Let’s not make the same mistake with our digital devices. Let’s learn this lesson early so that we don’t have to get to the year 2057 before we need to put scary photos on the packaging of our mobile phones to warn people about the harmful impact that they can have on the user.
Don’t make smartphones the new smoking. Re-evaluate your relationship with technology this month and Disconnect to Reconnect.