“Look out, honey, ‘cause I’m using technology.”
— Iggy Pop
We all have our vices, our guilty pleasures, our ticks. It’s bad enough that they are a waste of time, thought, and energy; but when our habits are enabled by the devices in our pockets, their power and implications can be difficult to notice–let alone understand. Here are seven of these dirty modern habits that I and many others still struggle with, and what they say about us.
We habitually play meaningless games on our phones whenever we get the chance.
Our problem: We suffer from a lack of imagination.
The games on our phones are simple, colorful, and as addicting as any casino slot machine. They make our commutes go a lot quicker. But try taking your earbuds and pocketing your phone the next time you go for a walk, ride the train, or shop at the grocery store. You will not only hear more of what is going around you–you will see more, smell more (ok, I admit I don’t want to smell the train any more intensely than I do now), and experience a lot more sensual input. You might feel smaller in the real world than you do as the ruler of your own virtual world, but you also might start to like that feeling.
We constantly update our Facebook profile pics.
Our problem: We care too much about how people perceive us.
It’s a good thing to want to make a great impression on people, but changing our profile pic once a week gives people the impression that we are insecure and/or vain. This has worked for me: Try going a week without your social feeds and just chill alone when possible. If that creeps you out, start slow. Hang out with someone you wouldn’t normally, or go on a date. Either way, make sure your phone is turned off the whole time. At first it’s like having a giant mosquito bite that you can’t scratch, but eventually it goes away. And if you are as self-centered as I am, here’s a thought to keep in mind: Getting to know other people is also a great way to more fully know yourself. Remember that if you can’t be comfortable with who you are, you will never be happy. The number of times we find ourselves alone are far too many to have to suffer through them.
We feel the need to photograph every experience.
What’s wrong with us: We are afraid of death.
That’s ok, it’s totally normal. Just about everyone is afraid of death. We take video of fireworks for the same reason that troglodytes chiseled pictures of wooly mammoths onto cave walls–we want the stories to live on, even after we’re gone. But we can’t let our fear of death drive us to compulsively photograph everything. Gratuitous documentation can spoil the actual moment for ourselves and everyone around us. Just photograph in moderation, and try to keep in mind that a picture is not eternal. It will eventually dissipate when the Earth is swallowed by the Sun, if not by some quicker phenomenon, and no one will be around to like it.
Let’s keep the good vibes goin’ to the fourth dirty modern habit…
We surf Tinder every chance we get.
What’s wrong with us: We are emotionally unsatisfied.
Yes, we are emotionally unsatisfied–not sexually. Although most of us are that, too. Whenever I snap out of a 30-minute Tinder binge, the only hole I feel is inside my soul. I’m missing something. It’s like itching a scab–it feels good while you’re doing it, but once you’re done, your situation is much worse and you probably need some tissues. Now, instead of pulling up Tinder when I get lonely, I call a friend or relative I haven’t talked to in a while. Or I text a girl whose number I know in real life and see what happens.
You are addicted to Google Plus.
What’s wrong with you: You do not actually exist.
I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you are in fact a figment of one superintelligent Google engineer’s imagination. Yes, they are so smart that new and discrete nodes of consciousness can emerge from their brains. I hear that it doesn’t always last that long, so enjoy it while you can.
After posting something on a social network, we check its social validation stats (likes, retweets, favorites, upvotes, etc.) every five minutes for the next hour or more.
What’s wrong with us: We have never felt appreciated by our moms and/or dads.
If I ever tweet anything that I think is halfway funny or interesting, I always leave the tab open just to know right away when the applause comes rolling in. It never does. But one time I was talking to my dad on the phone, and he said that he thought something I wrote on Twitter was funny. Words can’t describe how proud I felt. But would it have killed him to retweet it?
I write blog posts about psychology when I have absolutely zero authority on the subject.
What’s wrong with me: I have the constant urge to prove that I have something interesting to say.
A feeling of insignificance gnaws at me every waking hour. Most of the time I repress, repress, repress, but that just causes me to distract myself from my true feelings. So I play Candy Crush, I try out some new profile pics, I laugh at Google Plus, I write uninformed listicles, I snap about twenty photos of the sunset, and I binge-swipe on Tinder into the early hours of the morning. And if somehow this gets published, please do not try to contact me because I will be busy refreshing the traffic stats for the rest of the week.