Struggle to Ignore the Blinking LED: Internet Addiction and Smartphones

A problem I’ve always had with data phones is the amount of information they provide the user: and the reliance the user can become on the device for even the most trivial of information updates and tasks. When I first purchased an LG Voyager a few years ago, I found my girlfriend at the time frequently being annoyed at my constant phone usage. I was fairly annoyed when she suggested that I cut back, but in retrospect I really should have listened to what she had to say. Only a few years after these first signs appeared did I cancel my internet plan: effectively forcing myself from reading the news, checking facebook, and reading my e-mail on my phone.

Then I fled to Europe for a month and only had  minimal Telecom Italia service on a basic GSM phone. When I got back to the states I realized that I didn’t miss texting and phone calls at all: what was important was that I was with people who I liked and when I was busy with exploring and researching, I didn’t need a phone to keep me entertained. All of my internet usages were at computer labs. I found out that I didn’t need the internet and to be in constant contact with everyone. For one period, I spent 4 days without any form of contact with the outside world: it was just me and a travelling companion figuring t hings out for ourselves. The feeling was liberating.

Last Novermber, with the LG Voyager and Europe experiences in mind, I decided that I could handle a smartphone with a dedicated data plan. The Motorola Droid was a natural choice for an Apple-hating, Verizon-using, Google-reliant consumer like myself. What a wonder it was! With push notifications and multitasking I could partake in instant facebooking activities! A quick glance at my phone would reveal if the green notification LED was blinking; which revealed that I had new communications to deal with!

I found myself annoyed with the amount of notifications I was getting: it was hard to find a balance from getting what I needed to know to things which really could wait until I was at a real computer. Twitter feeds, google news updates, facebook messages, multiple e-mail accounts and other assorted things were just too much. It was difficult to stop checking for the blinking LED, and once I saw it was on, I just had to see what it was! Be it in class, at work, or with friends, the LED just could not wait.

Frequently these updates were pointless e-mails, facebook updates, and other such notices which I didn’t need to know at all: at least, not until I was at a real computer. After hearing that a friend had turned off all of her facebook notification e-mails, I decided that she was probably on to something smart and decided to emulate that behaviour. Already I’ve found that my inbox is a lot less cluttered, and that when I receive an e-mail in my personal account, I can be sure that it’s probably something I want to see sooner rather than later.

We’re deluged with information. It’s tempting to simply absorb all that is thrown at us all at once, but only after careful consideration of what is important  can one strike a balance between being notified of important updates and not overwhelmed with pointless messages. It’s hard to find this point, but the more I experience life, the more I realize that you always need to focus on who and what is around you, rather than what your phone is trying to tell you.

Update: I originally planned to write about high school as soon as the other piece on my childhood was completed and posted. But of course that didn’t go as planned: I realized that high school had a lot more to it than I originally thought, and I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to approach it!

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