It is pretty obvious that at this point, we are all always on our devices [phones, laptops, etc]. Is this a bad thing?
When does it upset me when others are on their devices?
Generally speaking it annoys me when I’m talking to someone and they’re giving me half (or less) of their attention to me — when they are talking to me while on their phone or device. To me this upsets me because I like having 100% of someone’s attention when I am interacting with them. Obviously this has to do with my ego — I don’t want to waste my energy talking or engaging with someone if I feel I cannot get their full attention.
Thus as a simple rule, I don’t do what annoys me to others.
Thus, I will put away my devices when talking to people.
But when we witness certain social behavior that others do which we don’t approve of, what should we do?
For example– I often feel repulsed when I see an entire family at a restaurant, when they are all on their phones or iPads — even some of them often have headphones on!!! I don’t have power over how they act [nor should I] — but I wonder:
Why does the behavior of others bother me, especially when I’m not related with them?
The inner-tyrant in us
I think we all have an inner-tyrant which desires that all people should act the way we desire them to act.
In other words, we would like to control how others live their lives. We want to create the social rules in which everyone else obeys.
Does it matter what people are doing on their phones?
In theory, there shouldn’t be much of a difference between seeing people reading a book, reading their phones, reading a newspaper, reading a kindle, etc. But why do we see it as ‘virtuous’ when we see people reading paperback books, when we see it as ‘vice-ridden’ when people are on their phones?
Kids are all addicted to their devices now!
For example, what if someone on their phone is reading The Illiad, or any great piece of literature?
I had an incident when on the train in Amsterdam — I was reading either philosophy or Homer on my iPad, and some old man gruffed and said:
All these kids are so addicted to their devices today!
I looked at him, told him I was reading philosophy, and he gruffed and walked away.
It seems that it does matter what we are doing on our phones. Are we texting our old grandparents to wish them a good day? Are we answering important work/money-related emails? Are we playing Candy Crush? Are we mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds? Are we creating art on the ProCreate app or ZenBrush 2 app? Are we looking through our artistic photos on our phone? Are we writing an essay on our phone [iA writer]?
I think when we are on our phones, most people assume we aren’t doing anything “important” or “productive”. I think most people assume we’re just squandering our time playing games, doing social media, or other ‘unimportant’ stuff. This is the bias, and I think it will remain this way for a long time.
But this is a bit upsetting to me. It infers that other people know what is ‘best’ for us, and they have the power to dictate what is ‘virtuous’ and ‘vice-ridden’ behavior. If we really think about it– who is to say that playing Candy Crush is “lesser” than sending emails? Who is to say that writing poetry is “better” than spending your grandma a happy birthday text message?
Other people are trying to be the ‘virtue police‘ — giving you scorn for not engaging in what they consider as ‘virtuous’ behavior/activities/use of your time.
Leave others alone
My practical thought now is this:
Leave others alone.
I think the judgement part is natural. But honestly, the behavior and the way others live their lives isn’t your responsibility.
What if someone was using their phone while working on how to solve world hunger, how to cure cancer, etc? We never know!
The silver rule:
Don’t do unto others as you don’t want others to do unto you.
However, if you see others doing things you don’t like, leave them alone, unless you somehow sense they are harming others or doing a massive disservice to humanity.
For certain social behaviors you witness but disapprove of, just ignore others. Turn your head away from them, or walk away.
Give others benefit of the doubt
Let us just assume others are doing good things on their phones, at least to preserve our own sanity.
Or in other words:
Ignore what others do, just focus on yourself.