Since the start of Covid back in 2020, when the world turned on its head, and gave us all a blank sheet to work from, I have been trying new things, and seeing what works best for me. As some will know, WFH has been a game changer for me, and really gave me the opportunity for a fresh start on so many fronts. I have done a lot of thinking about these changes, and also taken some time to give some appreciation for the things that really have kept me going, not only through Covid, but over time with my life in general.
Having time to reflect on the important things in life has been a bit of an eye opener for me. While I like lots of nice shiny things, there are a handful of basics I really can't do without. So with that in mind I thought I would write a few entries about them, and take a deep dive into my own mind while writing, to see why exactly these things have been so instrumental in my wellbeing over the past couple of years.
So, first up.... The mobile phone.
It is a funny. In the early years of mobile phones they were game changers, being able to text instead of speaking, never missing a call. Being able to stay in touch wherever you were. It was great. But then slowly but surely it became intrusive, distracting, time consuming and an obsession. With the growth of social media, the obsession has rapidly grown out of control. Checking the phone all the time for notifications, impatiently waiting for replies to email and messages, and praying for the next pic on The Gram, to be your most popular, and liked picture ever.
Hoping for exposure, wanting publicity, but dreading negativity, its the circle many go around in.
Years ago I used Blackberry, each device had a little multicoloured notification LED on it, and with a clever app, you could get it to flash a different colour for different notifications. There was no need to constantly wake the phone up, if the light wasn't flashing the colour of the notification you were waiting on, it wasn't there, simple. But complexity replaces conventional simplicity, and now its a pop up bubble that appears as the screen wakes up. Showing ALL your notifications, and tempting you back in.
For me, my relationship with my phone(s) is a complex one, but one I am slowly getting to grips with. At the start of 2020, when Covid was becoming a thing, and seeing less people was starting to be the norm, my brain slipped into a happy place, and craved even less distractions. One evening I put my phone on silent for the night, and it has pretty much stayed on silent for over 2 years no. No tones, no vibrate, nothing. On the odd occasion when I am waiting on an important call I will put notifications back on for a while. But immediately on doing so, I realise how irritating and time consuming it all becomes. LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME... is all it screams when it's not on silent. I must confess, I have notifications on my watch, so when they arrive silently on my phone, I get a quick glimpse on my watch still. All the same my interactions with the phone, and desire to check it all the time has fallen dramatically since going silent.
For me however there is a very different side to a mobile phone, and that was one I only truly appreciated my "need" for during a walk and talk with a friend recently, photography. I was just in the midst of an upgrade, and quite an expensive one at that, and we were talking about our very different requirements from a mobile phone. While he uses his mainly to communicate, while taking occasional photos here and there, I use mine to take a lot of photos with, and at times it is the primary role of the phone. So for me a good camera is one of the most important things when choosing a phone, and is why I usually end up with flagship phones, and expensive contracts.
As we talked about our uses, and I started to realise the importance of taking photos to me, it all started to make sense. Sometimes I am so closed off to my surroundings I take pictures to look at them later and appreciate the landscape or location, without the noise and distraction of the people around me. Other times it is a great way to shut everything else out, and focus on one thing for a moment. Over all, taking pictures to me is an important part of my every day life, be it at an event I want to remember, or simply on a morning bike ride, taking in some sights, and somehow making a photo trail of what I did that day. Looking back sometimes is a nice escape, and way to decompress when I am having a bad day.
Of course I could just carry a camera, and cut out the distraction of a phone all together, and maybe get even better photos, but that just isn't for me. I recently got an iPhone, and thought I could take that on rides, runs and walks with me instead of my larger Samsung S22 Ultra, but it has flaws that just make it impractical. For me, pictures are taken on the fly, a moment, one I want to capture. Rarely do I take planned, carefully curated photos. So the most important thing for me is the speed I can open the camera app and take a picture. When riding a bike on a road or trail, that can be easier said than done. Thankfully the Samsung has a quick camera launch from a double press of the power button, then a quick press of the volume rocker (below the power button) and the shot is taken. Video or photo bursts are equally easy to do. On the iPhone this is not so easy, and on a simple point and shoot camera, even less so. So the Samsung works perfectly for me.
Being able to edit on the phone, straighten the frame, delete any obstructions from the shot, and then post to my Instagram or Facebook is the icing on the cake. One device does it all. Now going back to the desire to please others with photos etc, this was once the case for me. Trying to get imaginative shots for others to enjoy and comment on. However recently I stopped using Facebook for a few weeks, then came back to it in a lite version. I add photos and videos of my trips out, but don't really look at the comments. Putting them there simply creates a timeline for me, and I can look back at my own leisure and see what I have been up to. At low times, look at the better times, and motivate myself to seek better times again. As each trip out is completed, so it populates the timeline a little more.
The same is the case for my Instagram, especially my Snazy365 account, which is one photo to represent that day in my life. It is amazing how memories can flood back when looking at a single well chosen image of a day.
So in summary, for me mobile phones are both my saviour, and my worst enemy. Helping me escape from the noise of life when it matters most, but at times being the cause of the noise in the first place. One thing I do know for sure is one noise I can control and will continue to, is the notifications on my phone. At least I can control its level of demand for my attention.
Quick side note, the Netflix documentary "The Social Dilemma" is an amazing insight into how responsible the toxic development of social media is responsible for the obsession we sometimes feel. Faux notifications, fauxtifications maybe? Facebook sending you a notification that 2 of your friends liked something, and that you might like to look at it too. A way to draw you back in to the environment. I mean, I get it, Facebook is largely free to users, so they have to have a revenue stream, and need to expose you to adverts etc. However, when I recently logged out of Facebook on my Samsung, I would still occasionally receive notifications about things others liked, trying to get me to log back in again, and resume the cycle.
I am not anti social media, it has been amazing for me at times, but we all need to know our limits, and when to turn off or move away for a while. Being bombarded with not only adverts, but negative content, a barrage of opinions from people we follow (and some that we don't thanks to suggested content). Once the brain gets thinking in certain cycles, it becomes trapped, and escaping back to what is actually important in life can become difficult. Now days I generally log in, upload, and log out. From time to time a min or two of scrolling, but then am mindful not to dive down rabbit holes of stories.
Right, that will do, I think that covers my love hate with mobile phones, hopefully highlighting they are one of the few things I NEED in my life as a coping mechanism in stressful times, but can also be harmful if too much time is spent on other aspects of the phone.
Does a phone control your life, do you even turn it to silent for long periods of time, or are you happy to be without one with no issue?
Thanks for reading part 1 of my little "Things that keep me sane" series.
Ironically now, I am off to share this blog on social media! 🙂