The Selective Focus Epidemic

I have a roommate that is always glued to her phone screen and I’m not exaggerating that in the slightest. She is always staring down at her screen. Always.  If I try to have a conversation with her it usually goes like this: I’ll ask her a question and it will either go in one ear or out the other, she’ll be silent for a moment or two before eventually looking up and asking me to repeat myself or she’ll respond without ever looking up. All of these reactions make me feel unimportant, silly and irrelevant. I’m not even important enough for her to look up from her phone? “But Libby,” you say, “you’re just being dramatic.” That’s not the first time I’ve been told that so maybe you’re right, I mean, she must be doing something really important on her phone and that’s why she’s ignoring me, right?

When I think about what I do when I’m on my phone I’m usually clearing or responding to an email, responding to a text or occasionally scrolling through Twitter or Tumblr. I usually grab for my phone mostly when I need to clear a notification or I find myself in a waiting room or something equally as boring. According to this SalesForce article I don’t stray too far from the average American,

“According to Google, the number one smartphone activity outside of work is shopping. According to a Deloitte survey, 57 percent get their news on apps, 45 listen to music, and 31 percent stream films. Twenty-nine percent use their phones as digital wallets, even when purchasing in-store. Many use them as smart assistants, and a growing number use them to hail transportation.”

So finally, we have some answers as to what my roommate could be doing that’s so important that I feel like I’m inconveniencing her every time I have to break her out of her trance to ask if she wants to order take out for dinner.

Am I alone in this? Certainly not, right? I mean, she’s not the only person in their early twenties with a smartphone, there has to be other people with the same kind of selective focus. According to Eric Andrew-Gee in this article,

“In the first five years of the smartphone era, the proportion of Americans who said internet use interfered with their family time nearly tripled, from 11 per cent to 28 per cent. And this: Smartphone use takes about the same cognitive toll as losing a full night’s sleep. In other words, they are making us worse at being alone and worse at being together.”

Seriously, Eric? That’s actually frightening, considering how I am after a restless night, this makes me want to toss my phone out the window and never see it again. Good thing Eric has no more scary statistics, right? Oh? One more? I guess if we have to. In that same article he states,

“A Pew survey found that 90 percent of cellphone owners “frequently” carry their phone with them, and 76 percent say they turn their phone off “rarely” or “never.” In one small 2015 study, young adults checked their phones an average of 85 times a day.”

This statistic actually got me thinking a bit. Are people actually doing things those 85 times they check their phone or is it just reflex at that point? Have we become so brainwashed that every 20 or so minuets we impulsively scrolling through twitter just because we feel like we have to. I can understand wanting to clear those red email notification, but mindless addiction is what worries me.

It just hit me that this is probably how every mom feels at the dinner table when her kids won’t put their phones down. So what’s the take away from all of this? People are feeling ignored and unimportant when their friends choose social media over speaking to them, people are so mindlessly addicted to their phones that they don’t even realize the damage they are doing to their relationships by ignoring them and overall, people are on their phones just way too much. But I think that last point is kind of redundant, we all already knew that I’m not exactly re-inventing the wheel with that one. I think that Julia Beck wraps my points up very nicely with this quote from this article,

“’Sorry, I just need to text this person back real quick,” we might say while out with friends. As these things become normal, it creates an environment where we are only comfortable asking for slivers of people’s distracted time, lest they ever obligate us to give them our full and undivided attention.”

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