Over the last few days I have been feeling quite down, low energy, and very confused and negative about a lot of things. Perhaps for two very good reasons as I have been blessed with the double whammy of being ill and having my period (why do I still feel embarrassed to write the word period in the 21st century?).
Anyway, I can partly put my low energy and dark mental state down to one, if not both of these.
But this period (of time) has also opened my eyes up to how I try to deal with these feelings, and in particular the role of my mobile phone. While feeling this sadness/darkness/not-right-ness – I noticed I kept looking over at my phone. I was looking at it like I would look to a friend. I wanted my phone to give me some answers. I wanted my phone to fix me.
Instead of sitting with my uncomfortable feelings for a bit, I kept grabbing at the black box to randomly tap on different apps to only come away with the feeling that my phone had let me down. There was nothing there that was making me feel any better. This only exasperated my feelings of loneliness and frustration. I mean I could have created my own entertainment – started conversations with friends on whats ap and received the stimulus from their reply – but I didn’t want to give my phone any energy. I just wanted it to make me feel better. To do something.
When I initially considered this, it seemed ridiculous… But it isn’t ridiculous, is it? Isn’t it actually perfectly sane to turn to my only permanent companion to try to stop the dark cloud of feelings that were looming over me?
It is sane because I turn to my phone all the time. To provide entertainment. To connect with people. And I am definitely not the only one. On the tube, most people are tapping away on something or other, and its part of the way we function these days. Phones let us keep up to date with things we enjoy, they keep us informed when we are curious – but they also keep us distracted. Constantly distracted.
And this worries me because I don’t know if humans have developed the mechanism to know when we are using our phones out of necessity, out of boredom or as a distraction.
I think the problem with modern technology is that it fucks with us on multiple-fronts. It fills us with so much information, a lot of this negative, and quite horrifying, that this can trigger anxiety in itself.
I also believe that when we see a horrific picture or read a tragic story that the information goes into us, but it doesn’t come out again. I think we carry what we consume. These days, though, instead of giving these events the respect and space they deserve, we just move on to the next story and the next distraction – whether it is a stabbing or a picture of a friend’s wedding.
But I feel there is also something else happening too. That as we increasingly focus on external stimulus, we become less able to process our own emotions.
And this is probably why I turned to look at my phone when I was feeling low. My phone does everything else – surely it can just flick me back into positivity setting…
The hi-tech and media industry know all this of course – they feed on it. They provide us with the technology and information - but they have absolutely no regard or responsibility for how we then process it.
And so the pile of information mounts up – day after day, layer upon layer, one huge hit after another. And somewhere deep underneath this massive pile of Trump, Brexit, terrorism fears – lies a much more troubling source of pain – our own.
The personal problems and worries of our real 3-dimensional lives. But is there any time to register these issues, and our feelings about them, when we float daily in a world-wide web of information?
Well, I don't think there is, until you get sick – and suddenly see your phone for what it really is - a piece of electronics.
So what I ended up doing was lying on my bed and thinking, or more accurately feeling. (Not in a sexy way.) I didn’t think about Westminster, I thought about visions in my own life that have stuck with me, the child-like fear on my parent's faces when realising after 30 years of marriage they have to build their lives up again and move on – of my frail Nana who smiled at me with love, as a carer took off the shit-covered knickers she had around her ankles.
And in amongst these vivid and painful scenes I would think about other things – career frustrations, my non-existent love life – family and friendship issues – why everything just seems so damn complicated. How not enough people buy the Big Issue. The fact that with all these thoughts maybe I would go mad. Or that perhaps I should see a counsellor. I’ve seen one before and it helped.
But the reason seeing a counsellor helped me was very simple – by listening to myself go on and on (and on) I started to realise how many feelings I’d stored up from my past. How almost every interaction with someone, every good feeling, bad feeling, frustrating feeling, guilty feeling, regretful feeling, was stored inside me – like a computer…
And this is why I think we’ve got a problem brewing with the way we use technology. Because at a time when it’s already tough out there and there’s so many pressures on us to compete and achieve, we seem to be actively choosing to put more sources of anxiety into our minds. And on top of this, we have even less time to mull any of it over.
I know from talking to friends I am not alone – many of us feel like we are battling to keep our sanity. We may have a roof over our head, food in our cupboard, and friends – but man, don’t you just feel totally helpless and alone sometimes?
So what do we do about it?
Well for what it is worth - my gut feeling is that we can reduce some stress and anxiety by just giving ourselves some alone time with our minds. Just some time staring at the ceiling, staring out the window, sitting alone – with our phones in a different part of the house – and just be-ing. Yes, friends and partners are cool (innit), but I don’t think it’s ever a substitute for spending a few minutes alone with your feelings – even if this is quite hard, very hard, or harder than that. Or if they are nice feelings, be with those feelings too : )
Not everyone, I do hope, but many of us seem to have an extremely deep well of sadness, loneliness and desperation inside us. But one thing that is important to cling on to – is that it is through pain, and really connecting to that pain, that we grow. We become more empathetic, more intuitive, more resilient and more beautiful.
I don’t know - but I fear that the more we interact with the world within our phones, the more we forget to tap into ourselves – to stop, to feel and to grow.