Patience is a (Lost) Virtue
This article is part one of a series that will be looking at the ways technology distracts us, and the effects of this constant distraction.
Try and think of the last time you had to wait for something. Maybe it was in line at the bank, at the doctor’s office, or the classic example of waiting–The DMV. What did you do? Stare at people awkwardly? Take a nap? If you are like myself and most other Americans, you probably reflexively pulled out your phone.
Cell phones, especially smart phones, are perfectly designed for distraction. We never leave the house without them, and they offer a pocket-sized window to the world of the internet, video games, and social media. Whenever we get a minute alone with ourselves, we have been conditioned to pull out the iPhone, check up on Facebook, email, Twitter, etc. I don’t own a smart phone, but the impulse is no different with me; I check voice mail, my calendar, and figure out who I should text to pass the time.
Is there something evil in the desire for distraction during moments of boredom? I don’t think so. However, there is value in the ability to be alone with yourself, with no external distractions. This time can be used for self reflection, to think about how you are feeling, about the choices you’ve made today, about your relationships and the direction life is heading. If we allow the cell phone reflex to take over any time we have alone with our thoughts, then we will have no time left for self reflection.
In the trial before his execution, Socrates famously told his accusers that “the life unexamined is not worth living.” In our context, this means to me that if I don’t take time to think critically about my life, then my quality of life will certainly suffer. Self-examination helps us know and develop who we are, what values we have, and whether our current path in life is consistent with those values.
I’m not suggesting that we all go toss our phones into the river. However, I am suggesting that the next time you are waiting in line, put down the phone for five or ten minutes. Spend this time in whatever sort of self-examination and reflection you choose. This is a very achievable goal, and I think it will have a definite positive impact on the internal richness of our lives.