The other day, I was walking down the street on my way to get my nails ~did~ , mindlessly scrolling on my phone. I wasn’t really looking where I was going (obviously), and almost ran into somebody. He gave me the dirtiest look while mumbling some version of “watch where you’re going,” and while I was initially taken aback by his hostile reaction, I quickly became ashamed. Why did I feel such a strong need to spend the one-minute walk from my car on my phone?

I don’t think any of us Gen-Z-ers are blind to the huge impact that phones have in our lives. We’ve all heard the laundry list of negative consequences associated with excessive screen time – lack of sleep, mental health issues, neck wrinkles from looking down at our screens (my personal fave), among others. For a moment though, I want to focus on the impact that phones have on our personal relationships.

Recently, I watched a video called “Our Phones Are Ruining Our Relationships,” in which author Simon Sinek talks about how our culture’s obsession with phones has a VASTLY negative impact on real human connection.

Two specific examples stuck out to me because they’re so relatable. First, Sinek discusses how when we’re out for dinner with a friend and they go to the bathroom, we have this urge to reach for our phones to pass the in-between time. Second, when we’re in a meeting and the person running the meeting is late, we spend the interim time waiting for their arrival on our phones. Sinek argues: “Do you know when relationships are built? All that in-between time.”

We have countless moments of “in-between time” in a day – walking to and from class, sitting at the bus stop, sitting in the lecture hall before our prof starts teaching, driving with our friends in the car. In these moments, we have the opportunity to foster REAL HUMAN CONNECTION with the people around us (ex-squeeze my emphasis – clearly I’m heated about this topic). For example, this is a little drastic, but what if the love of your life passed you on the street and you didn’t even NOTICE them because you were too busy checking how Kim K is doing with her new Shapewear line. Or, what if you were sitting next to the CEO of this amazing company that’s right up your alley, and you missed the opportunity to network because you were getting up to speed on the latest TikTok trend. That’s just sad.

Taking the initiative to be present and mindful during the “in-between time” is easier said than done, especially when all the kids are doing exactly the opposite these days. Sinek captures this experience perfectly: “[When] you’re walking down the street with someone and they pull their phone out, we feel stupid so what do we do? We pull our phones out.” We need to decide for ourselves the extent to which we’re willing to let our phones seep into our everyday.

I’m not saying that phones are all bad. They allow us to stay in touch with the people we love, they facilitate communication with new people, they help us stay organized, they allow us to order Mucho Burrito right to our doorsteps at the click of a button (that is just amazing, really), and pretending I’m on the phone is actually great for avoiding certain situations (haha, just kidding, I don’t even do that… I swear…). What I am saying is this: if there’s a moment when you could be off your phone, take the time to look around! Be mindful, be present. Strike up a conversation with somebody. Try to find something that you hadn’t noticed before on a familiar street. Pet a dog. In the words of one of my favourite movie icons, Ferris Bueller: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

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