You wake up, roll over and grab a handful of M&Ms. Then another handful. After a while you get up, shower, have breakfast while absentmindedly spooning a cup of sugar onto your cereal. On your way to work you munch on a party mix of lollies and a cinnamon donut while you sit on the bus. Once at the office, you nibble away at a chocolate brownie at your desk, followed by a can of V while you catch up with your workmates. Walking round the building, you unintentionally walk into people as you shake the last crumbs from a Snickers wrapper into your mouth.
Sound familiar? Hopefully not. But if you replaced all the sugary food and drink references with “your smartphone” – how about now?
I’m talking about the “walking digital dead”; the ones who automatically reach for their phones rather than being forced to chat idly for 30 seconds in the lift lobby. They are the ones who find out what the weather is like from Instagram, not the world they are walking through while peering at their screen. They are the ones who give in to the urge for another Like or Retweet, over and over and over again, and feel anxious when their battery drops below 20%. Surely this is an overly public demonstration of their lack of self-control and indulgent self-absorption? If you can’t regulate your own digital intake, what does that say about other decisions you make, other habits you have, other priorities you rank behind your screen time. It’s not uncommon for people to be bingeing on technology non-stop, and just because we can and because it’s easy… doesn’t mean that we should. I myself am a big fan of dark chocolate, but I don’t just give in to my urges and gobble Lindt Sea Salt chocolate non-stop, because I know that is not good for me. So I choose to regulate my intake because it’s better for my health and I have a smidgen of self-control.
The walking digital dead are at that point where they are gobbling as much digital time that they can get, feeding their endorphins, opting out of other society niceties because they can’t be bothered and they don’t care what anyone thinks. It feels good, it is easy, “everyone else is doing it”, and quite frankly it is way more fascinating than the people around them.
In China, they have footpath lanes dedicated to these walking digital dead. Yes, whole footpath lanes!
On the flipside though, some people are acknowledging that what was initially novel and fun has developed into a digital crutch for life. Adults can now pay hundreds of dollars to attend a digital detox camp – the modern day addiction clinic – where your cellphone is taken off you, and you “disconnect to reconnect”.
Maybe you aren’t that bad yet. Maybe tell yourself you can go without your phone for a week if you had to. But next time you reach for your device, ask yourself what you would do if it was a bar of Lindt Sea Salt chocolate. Choosing to regulate your digital diet requires an element of self-responsibility, some self-awareness and a healthy dose of self-control.