Antonia Zimmermann reflects on excessive smartphone use, telling us that less is often more.  


We are finally reunited around a dinner table for a cosy night in amongst friends, and finally away from deadline fatigue and constant social pressures. We are here to share with one another, but instead we share — online. All I hear is the tapping of fingers on screens. Instead of connecting with those in front of us, our conversations take place in the world of colorful newsfeeds, flashing lights and “perfect” photographs.

According to the fifth annual UK mobile consumer survey, 76 % of Britain’s population own smartphones. In the age group 16-24, 90 % have a smartphone. More than half of them check their phone within 5 minutes of waking. Having barely entered the real world, many of us dive into a virtual one.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to convince you to throw your smartphone into the next bin and revert to the age of smoke signals. I have a smartphone myself, and I confess to using it in excess. I believe it is also beneficial,  I am convinced that this technological progress has contributed to societal progress, particularly enhanced communication, and access to education.

The problem? The increased use of smartphones is leading to a worrying phenomenon: For many of us, it is hard to put them aside for even a short period of time without the fear of missing something. When was the last time you didn’t have your phone in the same room? The last time you switched it off for a couple of hours?

Having our mobile phones always at hand, we try to fill the rare gaps our overly crammed schedules allow for. These gaps should remain what they are because they contribute to things whose importance we tend to overlook: real social interaction, time for ourselves and some peace of mind.

Nowadays, It is almost normal to have a phone out whilst talking to others – ready to check it for the latest stories on our newsfeeds. Unfortunately, this distraction can make others feel as if the conversation is boring. So if we cannot truly interact with the person in front of us, what are we looking for from our smartphones?

The constant presence of social media and other means of communication in our lives prevents us from learning to be okay with being alone. Once we put them aside, we might realize that being constantly in touch with our friends via social media is not the same as seeing them. It is also different from getting satisfaction out of our achievements in the present moment.

In the end, switching off our phone from time to time would hopefully help us to decelerate in a world that constantly seems to accelerate. Looking out of the window, going for a walk, sitting in a lecture and devoting one’s full attention to the things we are being taught – these are all things that can slow down the pace of our lives and deepen our perspective on everything happening around us.

We are told that we need to be available. However, being available does not mean having to be online 24/7. It’s time to reconsider whether that one Facebook message really needs a reply within a few seconds.

Antonia Zimmermann
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