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Breaking the Digital Handcuffs

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 13/11/2015 Adel Zairi
ONLINE POLICE © Franck Camhi via Getty Images ONLINE POLICE

I am of an age where I can remember growing up without a mobile, the internet was a new phenomenon, pre-hashtags and a vine was a place for cultivating grapes.
This isn't to say I am an ancient relic or a complete technophobe, I had a mobile during school days and love and embrace technology of all descriptions; an therein lies the problem. Perhaps this love is too much love, perhaps I love it all a little too much, perhaps I have.....an addiction.

I can remember growing up without a mobile, the internet was a new phenomenon, pre-hashtags and a vine was a place for cultivating grapes.

I remember during my early teens it was perfectly normal to be on time. You arranged a meeting somewhere and simply arrived on time. The notion of punctuality has all but disappeared and with the easy means of calling, messaging or tweeting 'I'm running late' has become a perfectly acceptable course of events. Selfies and telephone cameras are now a window to our world. Concerts, sports events and general daily activities are now viewed through the screen of a smartphone rather than watching directly. Our presence is boosted by sharing, following and liking in some cases even streaming live, creating a window to our world no matter where we are.
I am by no means saying life isn't easier without all our connectivity and devices. I can take photos, hail a cab, order a pizza, send an email, listen to music, fly a drone, record a video, watch television, shop for groceries, leave a review, apply for a job, find a recipe, send money, book a flight and so much more all from my phone not to mention make a phone call!
Such is the dependence on mobile devices, that if my battery goes flat I feel anxious, disconnected and on edge. In the middle of the night if I hear or in some cases feel the vibration of my telephone, a little voice nags me in my head imploring me to answer or read my message and no matter how hard one tries, the voice always wins.
Maybe the problem is me, maybe I have a lack of willpower or maybe the telephone's draw is simply too strong. Either way the connection both emotionally and physically to my telephone is unhealthy. I have witnessed on many occasions whole families sat in a room together with not a word uttered between them. Only the familiar blue glow on their face as members across generations both young and old take solace in their smart devices. Not having wi-fi in most public places almost seems archaic in today's modern society.
Even at 37,000 we are spoilt with the luxury of wi-fi onboard aircraft. I used to love taking my regular long haul flights and connecting, reading the news, sending messages and in some instances video calling.
However on the latest flight I took I decided enough was enough, stage one of my digital rehab was to commence and I left my phones (Personal and Work) in my bag, the laptop remained in the laptop bag and even my tablet was left stashed away. At first it felt bizarre, not having the familiar shape of a phone in my hand, not having my thumbs hammering away at my screen, however after a while I forgot all about it, and broke the digital handcuffs. The experience of not having to check my phone every 5 minutes was liberating, the anxiety attached to checking emails or reading messages dissipated and frankly the situation was liberating. It was then I realised how far this addiction had come and had to be reigned in before it because overwhelming.
I must clarify I am not suggesting for a moment that I am rejecting technology, nor that my life would be better without. However as with anything too much of something is not a good thing. Since that flight I now leave my phone in a different room before I sleep, I turn off my work phone after a certain time and try to make a conscious effort to keep my phone in my pocket as much as possible.
I understand the irony that many people will be reading this on a mobile device, perhaps even liking, commenting and sharing using a mobile device. However try it and see, a period away from your smartphone, tablet or laptop might be just what the doctor ordered. Maybe you can also free yourself from the digital handcuffs albeit temporarily; after all absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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