I watched an interesting video recently and its rhetoric has, although taken a backseat in my mind, still nonetheless been stewing in my thoughts. I’ll walk around and bumble through life but see it through Dopamine-tinted lenses.
Having been in London for a month or so now, I’ve noticed it so much more than at home. I’ll see people on the tube, on the street, in cafés, at restaurants, their necks craned down at an awkward angle, staring into their screens as if they were having a casual hypnosis session as part of their daily routine. Nope, just playing Angry Birds or mindlessly scrolling… And don’t get me wrong; I’m guilty of this myself, however, I’m far more aware I’m doing it after having seen the video (below), which I’ll get to.
Being glued to your phone isn’t an abnormal thing these days; most people retreat to their devices almost as a reflex or response to any kind of emotion – bored? Phone. Sad? Phone. Just found out your house is being repossessed? Phone. And so on. I know this behaviour has gradually filtered itself into a ‘normal’ category in our society (even our grandparents have smartphones now, people), but it was only recently that I realised, although it might be normal, it’s also really sad. Here’s the science:
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released in response to something that ultimately makes us feel loved – a kiss, a cuddle or, yep, getting a few likes on your latest Insta. A reward chemical, if you will. That winning makes you feel good (personally I’m still not over the fact I came first in the egg and spoon race in year 4). But, without getting all scrambled by horrendous puns, that same winning feeling is pretty addictive – hence why social media has pretty much taken over most of our lives. We’re addicted to ‘winning’ and winning, in this context, is ‘who can showcase their highlights reel in the best possible way’. Here is the video for reference (which I’m sure many of you have seen, anyway) and apologies if I’ve paraphrased anything – Simon Sinek hits the nail on the head of everything that is wrong with our generation and as you’ll be aware, his words have been all but branded into my brain:
If you’re anything like me, you came away from this video feeling pretty ashamed and deflated that our lives have become so reductive and reclusive. What is life without an iPhone now? But it’s not even the technology that is the issue; on the contrary, it makes the fast pace of life today far easier to keep up with. It’s the media that manipulates around the technology that’s the problem. I mean, it’s nothing less than a painfully obvious observation to say that we’re steered by likes, thumbs-ups, pings, messages and memes. But what is this doing to our minds?
As discussed in the video, it’s the constant fuelling-for-validation that we thrive off now, whether we like to admit it or not and that’s nothing but destructive. If we’re constantly trying to find value in ourselves through what it is we claim to be our lives, then how long will it take before we just fall apart? Living for likes is like running on fumes – you’re gonna burn out soon enough and it’s no coincidence stats of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression have sky-rocketed since we were all swept away by the cult-like influence of social media.
It’s scary and it’s tedious to talk about. But why? Because we’ve either all just accepted the fact we’re bound by the proverbial shackles of social pressure or don’t want to admit we’ve inadvertently bought into the ‘cult’ (I’ll say that loosely) – even me, I’m far from innocent. Though I’m certainly not impartial to an Instagram filter and love a good location sticker, I can appreciate that real life isn’t that superficial. Alas – that’s just the way life is now.
But to divert away from the lecturing tedium of my recent contemplations, I’ll end on why I think being mindful is more important than ever. Mindfulness, sure, the practice is only going to help you be sharper and more in touch with yourself (and kinder to say the least) – but it’s not something everyone can take seriously.
Being mindful, however, just being aware of more things; putting down that damn phone, taking in the views around you, noticing the different smells in the air, appreciating what is in your life, that, anyone can do. And I can guarantee since I’ve started to try looking down at my phone less and start looking up around me more, I’m far more grateful for the things in my life – the real, raw, things, even (if not, especially) the darker days – more than ever. So next time you go to reach for your phone, just don’t. See what happens. Or what doesn’t happen. Just see more.