Last week I drove to Dallas at 5 AM in the morning, and while this is not recommended, I made it safely with the help of Amy Poehler's audiobook, "Yes, please." The final chapter is entitled, "The Robots Will Kill Us All: A Conclusion," and it details the ways in which phones have taken over our lives. Few would disagree that phones are a distraction for any person- you try to do work and it pings and zings, but for a musician trying to practice or accomplish anything, it is like a spoiled child constantly wanting food. Poehler writes, "My phone sits in my pocket like a packet of cigarettes used to. I am obsessed and addicted and convinced my phone is trying to kill me." I totally agree, and here are some of my reasons of why my phone is trying to kill me (and possibly all of us):
1. Text message sounds: you can't do anything without the pinging of the text sound. It's ubiquitous and can kill any practice session in seconds. I love being able to reach people, but sometimes I just turn everything on airplane mode so I can actually get something done.
2. Every app now gives updates, including Facebook which then pings to tell you that someone commented on your status/your friend's status/your mom's status/your friend's baby photos. More pinging/zinging/bells sounding.
3. We carry our phones everywhere because they still act as watches. I am completely embarrassed to say that I don't wear a watch and I just bring my phone with me.
4. We have tuners and metronomes on our phones, which then justify keeping them on the stand.
5. We interact with some people less in person, and more via text. I know more than one colleague who is incredibly awkward in person, but a very verbose texter who uses abundant emojis (something I only recently discovered).
6. Musicians now bring phones onstage, in rehearsal, to lessons, and everything in between. In my day (10 years ago), people turned their Nokia phones off or got in major trouble for disrupting rehearsal. Now, everyone thinks they've turned their phone off and then a phone goes off in rehearsal or a concert every few weeks, and it's so normal that few people react. We don't need our phones with us all the time.
7. They breed comparisonitis. You can essentially stalk people and see if they win auditions, went to auditions, music festivals, etc., and
8. We check it all the time, as though something interesting and exciting is happening. 67% of cellphone owners check their phones even when it isn’t alerting them to incoming information, according to a recent Pew study.
9. We overuse our eye muscles by keeping the object the same distance from our face, giving us the tunnel vision effect. Then we slouch our spine and bring our head forward to text. We sometimes lift our shoulder or contort our body in other unpleasant ways to use the device.
10. We have no idea what the radiation/cellular waves will do to us, especially since so many people keep phones in pockets and on their person. The electromagnetic waves are no joke, but since the influx of cell usage is new, we don't know the long term consequences.
11. They invite us to be more distracted drivers, more distracted practicers, more distracted everything. I know so many people who can't have dinner or drinks without their phone on the table, despite being with other people. *Please don't text and drive. It's stupid.*
12. Lastly, they contribute to our inability to focus on tasks for long periods of time. (Obviously, the internet is also to blame). It's so easy to get distracted while practicing, writing, listening, studying, watching TV, or anything. We just so rarely do one thing, and do only that thing.
A few suggestions:
1. Unless you have to be reached for some reason, try turning your phone off or into airplane mode sometime. I usually do this for walks, practicing, and runs, and find I'm less distracted. See if you can practice better free of that distraction.
2. Don't carry your phone in your pocket. Radiation+proximity to genitals=a curious and possibly dangerous mix.
3. Don't drive and text/facebook/whatever. Tell Siri to do something and if she doesn't do it (she's a righteous robot sometimes), pull over and get thingsworking. I'm terrified when I'm driving near someone (or in their car) fiddling on their phone.
4. Notice if you hold your cell phone by lifting your shoulder up. Please don't do that- switch sides, hold it in your hand, or get a headset.
5. Don't forget to be alive in the present, not just on the internet. I find myself occasionally obsessed with checking my emails or looking at blog stats, and I have just to remind myself to get a life and do something better.