When I was in high school, my friends and I invented a holiday. We called it National Bubble Day.
Held rather arbitrarily on the third Friday in April, it was an excuse to bring those little bottles of soap bubbles to school and blow them at odd intervals. Not to be disruptive, you understand, but just for the fun of it. It was hard not to smile at the sight of people around the school blowing bubbles, even if you were a permanently cynical high school student. It brought people out of their private reveries, and caused them to interact in a slightly different way. Even the teachers didn’t seem to mind.
It is perhaps in this same spirit that I propose a new and different holiday. Tentative title: “Stop Messing Around With Your Phone” Day.
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The details of the holiday are fairly self-explanatory: All you have to do is to stop messing around with your phone. While the phone can be used for purposes of direct communication (phone calls, texts, etc.) all other uses are forbidden. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Surfing the web
- Checking Facebook/Twitter/etc.
- Playing games (even locally installed apps)
- Installing apps, performing upgrades, or other maintenance
I’m tempted to include using Navigation apps in the above list, but I’m concerned that people really are so unused to fending for themselves in that arena that it might be what causes them to reject the whole idea. So if you need navigation to keep from walking into walls, so be it.
I’m also on the fence about whether listening to music is allowed. I sort of have to include it, but you can’t be messing around trying to find your perfect Pandora station. Pick something and (repeat after me)…stop messing around with your phone.
What will you do instead?
As my theater teacher used to say, you can’t have a negative objective, so the inaction will need to be replaced with something. So what will you do?
The answer depends on where you are. This particular holiday was inspired by those moments where I’ve been on a bus, looked around and realized that every single person on the bus had their face down in their phone. (This is actually kind of spooky, especially when it’s dark and all you see is the glow of screens reflecting off everyone’s faces.)
So here are some options, in case you need help deciding:
- Read. A book, not a website. Chances are, it’s been longer than it should. You may be one of those people who says they don’t have time to read. Well, here’s some time.
- Look around. People watch. Look at the scenery. Look up instead of down. Notice things if you can. This one is really hard for some people, and it’s even more uncomfortable now that pretty much no one does it. You may look weird. Try it anyway.
- Talk to people. Okay, now I know I’ve gone off the deep end. Don’t worry, you don’t have to talk to strangers if you don’t want. But perhaps be receptive to it. Maybe ask for directions. On a trip to Melbourne a few years ago, a simple query for directions led to a conversation and an invitation to an art gallery opening. Your mileage may vary, of course, but if you interact with no one, I guarantee the invitation won’t be there.
- If you’re around others, be present around the people you’re with. Not only will they appreciate it, but you’ll probably find that focusing on being in one place is less stress-inducing than flipping back and forth between where you are and where you aren’t.
This holiday might be rather uncomfortable for you. This isn’t like National Bubble Day, where your action can bring joy to even the most curmudgeonly souls. But its purpose isn’t to make you uncomfortable, but to shake you out of your normal routine, to get you into a different headspace, and into new situations. It also might actually (contrarily) feel good to reconnect with your surroundings. But even if it’s not a great time, you’ll certainly learn something in the process.
And lest you think I’m on some kind of high-horse because I don’t own a smartphone, I assure you, I’m not immune. If nothing else, my phone has a few games on it that can be (have been) as time-sucking as anything I’ve found online.
Some of the details of this holiday are still being worked out. For instance, the name, while impossible to misconstrue, lacks a certain amount of pith. So perhaps it will be renamed if we can come up with something better.
The more important detail still to be worked out is: when will it be held? What day will you Stop Messing Around With Your Phone?
How about today?