Mental peace and mobile phones

Back when I was living in Japan I often had introspective moments. Whenever I was out on a walk or in a train I'd look out, sometimes while listening to music. Nowadays whenever I'm on a train I play with my phone. Whenever I'm walking I can't help but take it out every once in a while to see if I've got new messages. Even if the act of checking for new messages takes only a few seconds, it completely destroys something that could otherwise have been an interesting introspective moment.

I might be jumping to conclusions here. I was younger when I was in Japan, so maybe I just was in a more introspective stage of my life. For that matter, I may have had more of a life there to introspect on, whereas now I am more defined as a person and there are very little surprises in my life, so there's more 'dull' time to fill up with phone play. (Unlike ten years ago where every quiet moment I had seemed like a great opportunity to solve yet another existential crisis. I'd like to think my personality has solidified since then..)

A similar thing happens to me at home. Whenever I have access to my primary pc, and all the access to interesting things that it offers, I find it extremely difficult to pull myself away from it. Despite that, whenever I do manage to pull myself away from it, I tend to become happier. Not always, but often. Sometimes I'm just in front of my pc, experiencing for the sake of experiencing, forgetting to enjoy myself even though I'm experiencing the things that are my most favourite. (No, I'm not talking about porn. There's plenty of other hedonistic vices accessible via the internet, such as watching tv shows, playing games, reading comics etc.)

There's a mental oddity in there somewhere. The feeling "I like activity X" does not lead to "I always like to do activity X even for 8 hours or more a day". Experience something for too long and it loses its value. Break moments are needed.  Mobile phones are devices that intrude into life's necessary pauses, and destroy them. If you've got your mobile phone primed and ready to use then you're not truly allowing yourself a break from whatever you're doing.

The world has changed a lot since mobile phones. In the past, if I rode a train I would take a paper book with me. Nowadays I've got books on my phone. In the past, if I went cycling, I'd navigate via compass and look at road signs. Nowadays I've got offline maps downloaded into my phone. It's become a device that is impossible to replace, but at the same time I (and we) have lived life just fine without it for millennia. It's powerful. But it's binding. Doing without a mobile phone for a while might set me free, but I'd be giving up an awful lot of convenience. It might be interesting to try and leave my mobile phone at home every other day, or every other week. I wonder if it'll make me happier or less happy.

Posted in Thoughts