In the last couple of weeks I have found myself feeling quite surprised by the amount of time that mobile phones consume my – and many other of my peers’ – days. It is a problem and one that screams for society’s attention. I realised this as I was giving a presentation to my class at university. I observed that the majority of my peers were consumed by their phone (or laptop) screen during the presentation. This showed me the dire state of distraction we want to be in, even during the times we are there to learn. But is that the only problem?
Even though I was standing in front of the class for only a couple of minutes, I felt a feeling of uselessness as I stood there, speaking to a group of people who were engaged and distracted in their devices. While the teachers are confronted by this every single day, I could feel the impact of this problem.
Recently I heard one really honest educator voice that he didn’t know how to get our attention, to get us focussed and in tune with the teachings anymore. In response and from reaction, the ball was thrown back to the teacher by blaming him… that he didn’t make learning interesting enough.
Is it possible that our devices and screens are artificially stimulating us to the point that being in life, engaging with people and listening to a presentation seems ‘not interesting’?
What is more interesting than that is, as university students we seemed to be ignoring the material and teachings that will provide us with the very necessary professional skills that are required to be competent in the profession.
The skills in this particular structural engineering class were about resilience and were there to offer us the ability to ask critical questions about safety so that we could eventually be in service to humanity. Isn’t that the purpose of being at university: not keeping up with the latest cat memes on social media or the messages of our friends sitting in other classrooms who are equally distracted?
We seem to be seeking this constant distraction and stimulation, but why? Coming from my own experience, it is the reality of life we don’t want to face. Screens are the distraction from our responsibility to serve humanity, to be honest about the troubles we live with, the hurts we hold and the uncertainty of what we are going to do with our lives after university. Not knowing what our true purpose is, or being lost in the ideals of university that are put onto us by parents and others. The expectations are high in our age group; the university environment does not support the development of our whole being.
When we choose decency and respect in all our relationships we become aware of the effect our behaviours have on others, and that living in such a way develops true responsibility and true purpose.
Being able to observe all of this and learn from it is supporting me to see the distractions I seek, while also coming to terms with my own knowing of purpose. Letting myself be free to express the difficulties I face in university and life in general.
We are all amazing people learning the skills that we need to work in our chosen profession, and to truly connect with humanity, it is a waste of time to not be present.
By Benkt van Haastrecht, Architecture Student, Arnhem, the Netherlands
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Is it possible with a phone or tablet you can see what is going on in the world but you do not have to actively participate in it. So we can become a bystander of life, surely we have to be careful with this way of living because we can be easily led or persuaded by outside stimulus so that we are not living the truth of who we are but a very reduced form of life, I personally would call this an existence and if we look around us there are way too many examples of this way of living in our society today.
We have lost the fact that we are all amazing people and we all have something to offer each other, in this way by working together towards the end goal of leaving this plane of life we would get there a lot quicker and have less climatic and social upheaval along the way.
In this day and age screen addiction starts from very young. We watch our parents doing that so it becomes normal for us to develop the same coping mechanisms. Without a different reflection we know no different.
‘Is it possible that our devices and screens are artificially stimulating us to the point that being in life, engaging with people and listening to a presentation seems ‘not interesting’?’ Yes! I am wondering if your peers also had to give a presentation and if they did were they aware of the same thing? It would be a great topic to bring to the university as a whole.
An attachment to be constantly distracted by a screen is an addiction and, as with all addictions, it is hard to let go of. In my, rather old-school opinion, it is bad manners to be staring at a device when someone is talking to you.
I agree with you Mary but feel that actually there is a part of us that is looking to be distracted constantly. Because if we became more aware of life around us it would freak us out that we are not paying attention to what is really going on in life.
For example how can we say we love to watch or participate in football when all the statistics show that domestic violence which is already rampant takes an even bigger spike whether the Football team loses or wins. There is so much evidence now that this actually occurs but no one wants to take responsibility for this truth. It has recently been suggested that the Football games start earlier and not in the evening to gain more TV and social coverage. How about addressing that fact that the abuse is taking place no matter what time of day the Football starts
Could it be we are caught up in consumerism rather than our most Loving way to be and that is to be connected and appreciating our divine essences? Then no matter what generation we look into there is a form of distraction that keeps us from the simple way of re-connecting to our essences and the most glorious appreciation of who we are.
Just as if someone was to have a high sugar diet they would not find an apple or a tomato very sweet, screens have the same effect. ‘Real-life’ doesn’t have that same stimulation factor and people have become accustomed to higher levels of distraction at the cost of their mental, physical, emotional and social health.
Are we trying to turn an apple into an orange rather than simply re-connecting to our essences and live life from the appreciation that we are re-connected to our Soul or essence.
” it is a waste of time to not be present.” not just in university but in life! I suspended my FB account because I got sick of staring at it. But then I just spend more time on Instagram. The platform is not the problem it’s what’s going on inside of me that needs to be looked at, what am I feeling in that moment. Especially those of boredom. Why do I feel bored? And why just a strong pull to avoid those so-called ‘boring moments’?
Leigh you ask a very interesting question why is there a strong pull to avoid those so called ‘boring, moments? Why is there such a need to fill the gaps in our lives with a constant companion? I feel the mobile phone has taken over from the cigarette as the constant companion of choice because it is more interactive than a cigarette ever was. Is it possible that we find it less confronting having an intimate relationship with our phone than with people?
I am so aware of my behaviour in a class situation. When I don’t want to be present it is an opportunity for me to ask myself what is going on that I am not enjoying. What I have found is that it is not always the topic or what the teacher is saying but that my body is feeling other things that are going on in the room that I haven’t clocked and they are distracting me. It has been a very illuminating experience!
When we choose decency and respect for ourselves it is reflected in all our other relationships so we need to ask why we are choosing to dishonour ourselves when we allow ourselves to be constantly distracted by screens etc
Technology is a killer for conversation, I know myself instead of taking the time to connect with another I have chosen instead to look at my phone.
I listened to a radio discussion the other day. A psychologist shared how she is putting on workshops to support people to connect, as many claim that with the use of social media being their main way of interrelating there are not sure how to, especially when it comes to members of the opposite sex. Quite an eye opener.
Absolutely, I find this is a major problem for teens now. They are very at ease chatting on social media but they don’t know how to relate to each other face to face.
‘it is a waste of time to not be present.’ It is a waste of time not to be present – so what are we so afraid of? I know for me I’ve carried beliefs that I can’t cope with the ugliness of the world but I’m coming to realise I’m also not accepting the divinity that is there too and the responsibility of bringing this reflection to the world just through being present and seeing everything.
“Is it possible that our devices and screens are artificially stimulating us to the point that being in life, engaging with people and listening to a presentation seems ‘not interesting’?” it would certainly seem a possibility as I witness people engaged with their mobiles rather than with each other when out together. What an indictment of the society we are building.
The answer to this is to not allow studens to bring mobile phones into classrooms. I did a training as I started a new job not so long ago, no mobile phones were allowed in the classrooms or we would have been asked to leave and not to come back again.
That seems a rather obvious answer, and I am surprised it is not in place more commonly.
I think this is standard policy in French classrooms, I think? It would make sense to have this in all classrooms, lecture theatres and education settings everywhere.
It’s like we seek connection from technology when in fact we are just avoiding the connection that is on offer physically. Phones are a massive distraction if we use them in a way that is not supportive.