The end of an 8 month journey through Latin America has finally come. I slipped through U. S. customs a few weeks ago and am now in the land of the double rice vanilla latte, the hamburger, the toilets that flush toilet paper, the extensive salad bar, and most notably…the phone drone. There are millions of zombies here in the U. S. You can spot them quite easily, blindly walking down sidewalks – their faces enamored with the screens of their smartphones. They exist in restaurants, grocery stores, hiking trails, driving down freeways, at bars with fellow friends, staring blankly into their devices occasionally rapidly moving their thumbs across the screen. They have almost completely taken over. It is quite appalling. Just taking a simple walk through town yesterday, I noticed that easily 8 out of 10 people I had passed had fallen to the dark side. What has happened to the U. S. since I have been gone? Why are people so fascinated with being 100% connected to everyone and everything through a small electronic screen?
I owned a smartphone before I left. I used to bring it with me everywhere, checking email on walks, responding to texts at the super market, looking up things on the Internet or playing games in my downtime while waiting for a friend. Since being away from all of that for 8 months I have realized that all the smartphone really did for me was cause me stress. When I got an email, that email was on my mind – occupying my thoughts until I took care of it. When I got a text, I had to immediately pull my phone out and respond even though 95% of texts sent and received were basically of no real importance at all. I was giving up valuable free time to be in constant communication… when the simple fact is that we don’t really need to be.
For me, I want to be present where I am and who I am with. If I am walking down a trail, I want to walk down that trail and notice the things around me. I want free time for my head to think and be creative. I want to be in the dark about what a friend is up to so that when I see that friend again – we can have a quality conversation and catch up. In the United States of Phone Drones we are very busy people, we squeeze out every second of time we can out of every day. Why do we choose to give our last remaining freedom to our phones?
I choose not to. I am now on a basic monthly voice only plan, no texting, no internet, and I am excited to use my phone as just a phone. I can only hope that others will eventually see the value of their freedom – their free time, and use it wisely. Next up – a sum of the trip through Latin America Land, including the number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches eaten, number of intestinal parasites acquired, and tally of all events where I later concluded that I was ultimately ripped off (Thanks Panama).
Photos taken near Puerto Madryn, Argentina – in the Patagonian Atlantic coast.