We’re out in public. Or with friends. Or spending time with the family. We pick up our phones to casually scroll through our Instagram feed, to load a couple of Snap Stories, or to see how many likes our last post got. Harmless right?
Maybe we’re bored with whatever else is going on around us. Maybe we don’t want to look like we’re alone. Maybe we do it out of habit. But while we may not do it on purpose, we often become oblivious to everything but the screens in front our faces.
Sometimes, we’re just accidentally being rude. Other times, maybe we don’t even care if we are.
Whether or not we mean to miss out on things because we’re staring down at our phones, it’s happening.
Check out some of the scenarios below where you might be tempted to break out your phone, and then see how they might be different if you didn’t. (Like, say, if you accidentally left your phone at home that day… or the battery was dead. Just kidding, I mean if you follow my rules and make a conscious decision to just put it away occasionally!)
Scenario #1 – You’re on the school bus or in your carpool ride on the way home from school.
● On your phone: DUH you’re on your phone. What else would you be doing when you’ve just gotten out of school and have a few spare moments?! It’s that sweet spot of the day when all the popular Instagram accounts post hilarious memes! You haven’t been on your phone all day so now you’re basically in a bubble of social media. The driver fails to notice you’re even in the car because you haven’t uttered a word the whole time! And then you miss your stop. Argh. It takes you an extra hour to get home. Your parents are worried, and THEN you have to call them to come pick you up! So now they’re mad too. And you have less time to do your homework. No Netflix for you tonight.
● Not on your phone: Maybe you get to talking with that kid in your class that you’ve never given the time of day. Maybe you find out that you two have incredibly similar interests and that he’s actually super funny. Your ride home passes quickly, and you get off at the right stop as usual. You have plenty of time to do your homework, hang with your family, and watch Netflix before bed. A pretty good weekday night, I’d say.
Scenario #2 – You and your friends are having a girls weekend at one of their family’s houses in the country or out in the woods.
● On your phone: Concerned with how this weekend is going to look on social media, you all end up spending way too much time deciding what outfits to wear. It’s super late by the time you’re all ready. You finally head outside to (you guessed it) take pictures, trying to get the perfect poses down so that everyone knows you’re off on a fun adventure this weekend. Then you all agonize about what time you’ll post those pics to Instagram and who gets dibs on which ones first. By the time everyone is finally done, you’re all so tired that you fall asleep. What a boring hangout.
● Not on your phone: You all manage to put your phones away for the evening, allowing for plenty of bonding time at this awesome house. You go swimming, chill outside, scream and giggle as you jump into a huge pile of leaves, play in the snow, or lounge by the pool. There’s tons of great conversation, laughing so hard it hurts, sharing secrets, and plenty of memories made. You may not have 188 likes on your Instagram photo(s) from the weekend, but you’ve got great stories to tell at school on Monday.
Scenario #3 – You’re attending a friend’s birthday party dinner at a cool new Japanese restaurant.
● On your phone: You and your friends all take turns snapping a pic with the birthday girl at the perfect location in the restaurant. Of course, you have to take some photos with your other friends too. And duh, you’ve all gotta take the perfect group shot (one where nobody looks anything less than impeccable, obvi). Your sushi has arrived, but nobody has had time to eat it yet. While you were away from the table taking photos, the hibachi chef has already started cooking, flipping shrimp tails around the table, and making jokes with the adults (you know, the “more saké, more happy!” kind that are cheesy but always funny). By the time you’re back in your seat and finished browsing the best photos, you’ve missed his performance, your food is cold, and the party’s almost over. Better hurry up and eat.
● Not on your phone: You sit down for dinner between some of your best friends and some girls you don’t hang out with that much. You all feast on delicious sushi and watch the hilarious hibachi guy cook a fab dinner for everybody. You celebrate the birthday girl, chat with all your friends, and get to know those new girls at the table. They’re actually really cool and you all decide to make plans to get together again. Your friend group has just increased in size, which is always a good thing. Great birthday party in the books.
Scenario #4 – Your bestie is over because her parents are out of town, and you have 24 solid hours together.
● On your phone: You end up spending the majority of that time in your room, flopped on your bed looking at your phones. Sure, maybe you guys are talking about what you see and making comments about other people’s photos or posts, but you’re not really connecting with each other. You’re not asking her about what’s going on in her life, and you’re not really telling her anything about yours. And you don’t actually end up doing much of anything.
● Not on your phone: You decide to do as many fun things as possible while you’ve got the time to yourselves. You bake brownies (or something else exciting from one of your mom’s cookbooks), lick the batter from the bowl, and when they’re done, you eat half the pan… with ice cream. You do your nails, make spa-like face masks, watch scary movies, order pizza, and talk for hours before bed. You remember why you two should do this more often. Best friend status is solidified.
Scenario #5 – You’re away with your family at the beach, in the mountains, in the city, etc. for the weekend.
● On your phone: Since you have to spend these days away from your friends and secluded with your family, you try to make it look as cool as possible online. You take constant photos and videos, and you Instagram the best ones to make everything seem awesome. You Snapchat photos of your dad and then yourself with your eyes rolled, making funny comments and jokes about him. You end up ignoring your family by texting while you’re all out, or at dinner, or before bedtime when you could be spending time together. They’re pretty annoyed with you, and at the end of the weekend, you can’t actually remember any fun things you did together.
● Not on your phone: Maybe you have a little digital detox. You and your mom take long walks outside, and you joke around a ton with your dad. You family all hangs out together, checking out beautiful sunsets, going shopping, riding bikes, chatting with each other, or just eating great meals. You catch them up on how things are going at school, and you end the weekend feeling refreshed and happy to have spent so much quality time with your family. They’re pretty pumped about it too.
The Internet, your phone, social media – it’s always going to be there. Your friends and family and possibly great strangers-turned-new-friends – they might not be.
By being on your phone, you’re missing out on the moment: the scenery, the people-watching, the important conversations, the little things, and the beauty of the present. They slip easily by while your head is facing down. You passively hurt others’ feelings, you unintentionally ignore important comments, and maybe you even miss out on meeting a really great person.
It might be something tiny and fleeting, or it might be something really big.
At the end of the day, you miss the experiences. And you never know what those experiences might’ve been. That’s the scariest