Smart phones have snaked their ways into bathrooms, into bedrooms and in the middle of dinner conversations. “Psychology Today” even reports that some people text while having sex. But what do smart phones do to writers? What will smart phones do to a generation of daydreamers? Sometimes I feel like we are all part of a great, big social experiment.
A lot of the experts have raised flags about phones and creativity, but no one seems to have any hard numbers yet in terms of research. After all, how do you attach a number to creativity? How do you quantify great, big ideas that are never thought of?
What I can tell you is my smart phone has had a negative effect on my writing personally. I remember what it was like when I first moved to Chicago and I didn’t have one. I’d take the EL, snake through the North side with one arm wrapped around a pole, my other arm scribbling away on a notebook. Sometimes I was lucky enough to have a seat. I must’ve looked crazy but I wrote most of a science fiction novella that way. The city and its tall buildings were a backdrop to an imaginary world of decaying skyscrapers built of unbreakable glass. I don’t take the El anymore. I miss the sound and vibration as it rumbled down the tracks. I miss the writing and the daydreaming as I stared out the windows.
These days I take the bus or the Metra when I go downtown, but I almost never write on public transit anymore, even as the lakefront flashes before me, the tops of waves shimmering like diamonds. Why? Because I’ve got my head bent down reading my phone. I’m checking email, Facebook and the news.
But I have to wonder, has my phone stolen part of my ability to daydream? My patience? My imagination? If every moment is filled with a newsfeed, how do we ever have time to come up with original thoughts and dreams? Boredom is kindling. Without it, the sparks of imagination flicker out and die.
I realize I sound like an old lady wondering these things. “Back in my day,” I say in a shaky voice raising a crooked finger, “things were different, things were better.” Were they? I could sing the praises of my phone all day long. But the fact of the matter is it has stolen part of my ability to think casually.
Maybe I’m being melodramatic or a bit silly. After all, this is such a first world problem. But moving forward, I’m going to try to be more mindful of how I use my phone, rather than being so mindless.
And unlike some people, at least I don’t check my phone naked in the shower. I can still have my classic Eureka moments in the bathtub.