Checking our Phones


Sometimes celebrity interviews can actually be more than fluff and hype. This is the case with the recent Aziz Ansari interview in GQ. It made waves for one big reason: Ansari’s declaration that he “quit the internet” deleting Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the web browser on his phone. 

“Whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there's a new thing, it's not even about the content,” He says. “It's just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling. You're not going to be able to control yourself. So the only way to fight that is to take yourself out of the equation and remove all these things.” 

I know what he means. I think we all do. 

To me this interview represented a big moment. We’ve all sort of had this feeling, that our devices and our constant connection to the internet are doing more harm than good, but it's rare that a celebrity acknowledges it so articulately. Then again, Ansari isn't your typical celebrity.

Ansari is of course far from the only one sharing this sentiment. Just this week, in his weekly email Tobias Van Schneider shares how he’s living in his own bubble to cut out the noise and be more level-headed. He uses an app that blocks the Facebook newsfeed so he can still message friends, but isn’t getting all the addictive garbage that comes with FB. And then there was this piece in the Atlantic, that lays out pretty concisely how devices are making millennials (the first generation to grow up on the internet) more lonely, more depressed, more sleep deprived, date less and see friends less. 

That’s messed up! 

I can’t help but think that social media companies like Twitter and Facebook are the tobacco companies of the day, knowingly serving up a harmful product. 
I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone because I’ve been feeling the side effects. I kept Instagram for now, but maybe that’s next. With this new age of the internet and connected devices, we’re becoming undone, but there is good news. Those of us who recognize the gravity of the situation have the power to make the most of it. When everyone else is distracted and crazed by technology, those who can reign it in and exert a little self control, will undoubtedly flourish. 

It’s not easy, but unplugging and logging off may just be the thing that not only keeps us sane, but allows us to prosper in the age of distraction.  

See also:
Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?
The value of ‘Deep Work’ in the age of distraction. 
Why we can’t look away from our screens.

This post originally appeared in the Hand & Eye newsletter. Subscribe here for more info. How are you dealing with technology overload? Let me know in the comments.