So how many people have you seen walk into lamp posts playing Pokémon Go?
It’s quite funny watching everyone do it. People walking around in gangs with a weird squint and their phones aloft as they flick their screens. I had someone tell me today that he has walked 40k in the last week since he downloaded the app. Amazing that such a small thing can invoke such a life change; but why is there a need to chase and capture imaginary creatures to encourage people to #GetOutside and be active?
So often these days I see people wondering about on their phones, not really aware of their surroundings. Sometimes it’s funny and someone trips and looks around sheepishly hoping they weren’t spotted. Other times you are nearly witness to an accident where they step off a curb, not realising it is there, and almost into the path of oncoming traffic.
It’s not only when people are out and about though that I notice this. I was catching up with a friend recently and both of us were getting notifications from our social media. I noticed that actually neither of us ignored them; we would glance at our phone and sometimes we would place it back down and others we’d do a quick something with it and carry on the conversation. But when we are on the phone like that, are we ever really there?
I’m beginning to wonder if our phones are making us into half people. Half of us is on the phone, texting, looking at tweets, retweeting, commenting, and liking pictures. The other half of us is in the real world, functioning but not giving that situation the full attention. I sort of understand it with TV; you can watch and have a gander (I have a theory that is why I bite my nails less, as my hands are occupied). But when in company, is it not just rude? And when out and about, is it not a huge shame and maybe even sometimes a bit dangerous?
With one group of friends I have adopted a ‘phone rule’; we put all our phones on one end of a table, face down, one on top of the other. First one to go for their phone, except to work out the bill, buys the drinks. Actually it’s worked very well; if there’s a funny anecdote about a video, comment or post we’ve seen, we’ll tell it and share the link later. It’s much more sociable and you get far more from spending good quality time with your friends.
As for being on phones out and about; I can’t deny that what Pokémon Go is doing can’t be a bad thing in terms of people getting exercise and fresh air. But what about when it rains again, or people have finished the game or they get bored; what then? I can’t help feeling that apps such as the ‘count butterflies’ app might be more useful in this case. Instead of looking for fictitious beings, why not help out with conservation efforts and spot rare wildlife instead of rare Pokémon? Or how about saving the battery life on your phone altogether and using good old fashioned pen and paper to note what you see? Or if spotting wildlife isn’t for you, why not just go and see what you can discover in the world outside? You don’t need to venture far, just leave the house and see where your feet take you. You might surprise yourself with the distance you achieve or the discoveries you make about your local area.
There is so much for us to see, not just in nature but in people as well. I love watching all the interactions when I’m on my own. I live in a city but countryside isn’t far away. In both places I find things that will always bring a little smile to my face and uplift me. Things that I’m not sure I’d ever notice if I were on my phone.
And it’s not only about what we observe as an outsider but how we interact ourselves. When I’m having a text conversation, part of me is old fashioned and would still rather just pick up the phone and chat; have a proper catch up in the absence of them being in the same room as me. It also means that they then have my full attention, whereas when I’m texting I could be doing any number of things in between, including talking to other people, both physically and on my mobile; for the people I’m physically in the room with surely it isn’t fair or nice to do that? I owe it to whoever I’m talking to or with to pay attention to what they have to say and actually share in it with them.
We are all looking for connections in this modern world but in keeping our devices on all the time maybe we’re really disconnecting from the real world and the people in it. Surely the only real way to engage is to take part; smile at strangers as they pass, have proper conversations that put the world to rights with friends, catch snippets of conversation that are hilarious out of context and maybe have a quiet chuckle at the phone user who hopes you didn’t spot them walking into that lamp post.