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Friends bring out the best in each other. So, how can you bring the best out of your smartphone, and how can your smartphone bring the best out of you . . .
I recently read that my smartphone is probably killing me.
Apparently, it does this by generating stress through unnecessary gossip, negativity, interruptions, bad news, and addiction. Ok. But doesn’t just about everybody I come into contact with do the same? Or what about the millions of surprise inconveniences that come my way every day in New York? They must be killing me, too, right? —including the article I just read (on my smartphone) about how my smartphone is killing me.
Is your smartphone really the problem?
We are in relationship to our smartphones as we are to people. In an astonishing infograph on Gen Z published in February 2019 by Visual Capitalist, some 98% own a smart-phone and half of them are connected for 10 hours a day!
To be sure, smartphones are designed to be addictive. And they do destroy our ability to think. But there need be nothing wrong with smartphones, used well, any more than there’s anything wrong with friends or families or colleagues, or strangers, or anyone with whom we happen to be in relationship. So, if you want to get a handle on your smartphone—don’t think about it as an evil device that suddenly burst onto the scene ten years ago to forever change our form of life. Such alarmism doesn’t help us.
Think of the relationship you have to your smartphone as a serious one — as one you might have with a friend. If you do this, you’ll inevitably come to ask: what is the purpose of friendship?
Friends bring out the best in each other
The purpose of a friendship is for each friend to bring out the best in the other. So, how can you bring the best out of your smartphone, and how can your smartphone bring the best out of you?
This is a topic that could fill volumes. The philosophy of friendship has been with us at least since Plato and Aristotle 2,500 years ago. The shortcoming of smartphones is that we can’t celebrate our best possibilities with them, such as picking strawberries by a river. Or digging out a fresh-water spring in the mountains. The smartphone doesn’t appreciate or enjoy such activities, and, therefore can’t share them in a way that our human companions can.
Electronic devices can, however, help bring such activities about. For example: Perhaps you might consider these wildly divergent articles: wikiHow to Live Your Best Life according to Oprah, a YouTube video on how to plant a tree, a site on Japanese gardens, or 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant’s very short essay “What Is Enlightenment,” in which he writes that, “to give up enlightenment altogether, either for oneself or one’s descendants, is to violate and to trample upon the sacred rights of man.”
So, don’t use your smartphone—or do anything with anyone—unconsciously or automatically. Reflect on what you’re doing and why. Indeed, this is the true meaning of the word ‘mindfulness,’ and ‘meditation.’ We might just as well call it alertness, focus, or composure.
Live your best life
Among the highest ideals of Western Civilization is freedom. Use your smartphone and friendships to make more of it. Study with your friends or your partner or a teacher, coach, or mentor how to live your best life—a life that all people everywhere at any time will be happy for you to have lived.
It’s not that you’ll find one answer in a eureka moment and stop investigating: it’s the energy spent in ongoing refinement of one’s life by way of investigation, study, and practice that makes one’s life the so called, ‘best.’ And it’s important to have a group of people with whom to share this activity to make it more fun.
Do this, and then see whether or not your smartphone is really the problem.