Up until last year, I had a flip phone that cost 30 bucks and could do exactly two things: call and text. I loved that thing. Besides the fact that it was quite literally indestructible (on more than one occasion, I threw it against a wall just to prove my point to others), I came to appreciate its functionalities. No push messages, no notifications, no Facebook feed.
It was a phone that served its purpose—making me available to others—while at the same time functioning as a gatekeeper between me and all the noise out there.
Whenever I was out of the house, I felt fully immersed in life. Wherever I was, there I was. Whether I was having coffee with a friend, dancing at a concert, or just sitting in the subway, I paid attention to my surroundings. I noticed the details and nuances of what was going on around me, and yes, sometimes I just had a dull moment in which I did nothing at all. But I cherished every single one.
And then I got a smartphone.
I had moved abroad and figured getting a smartphone was the easiest way to stay in contact with friends and family. So, at the age of 27, I gradually turned into the digital native I was supposed to have been for the last decade. Soon I was Whatsapping my mother; I was Instagramming my food; I was Snapchatting my life.
I discovered how incredible smartphones were at fulfilling the most basic human needs. We all want to communicate. We all want to share. We all want to feel appreciated. And there is an app for all of this. Unfortunately, though, smartphones also elevate another one of humans' most basic traits: We have a very hard time appreciating unique moments as they are happening. Instead, we often think that we would rather be somewhere else or do something else.
Phones give us a way to live through the experiences of other people by merely consuming their content and serve as vehicles to kill time while we wait for the next exciting thing to happen in our lives—which we then don't even fully appreciate because we are too busy taking pictures, filming, and livestreaming to capture the moment in its entirety.
And this is where mindfulness comes into play.