On the tram they are there, at the bus stop they are there, in the supermarket queue they are there. If we admit it, for many of us, they are there in the bedroom, on the toilet, in the right hand as the left hand stirs the pasta sauce. Phones.
I’m not going to stomp over well-trodden ground here and talk about accidents that are occurring as people text and walk, or what it is doing to our attention span or ability to be in company without looking over the digital garden fence. Instead, I am going to ask you, the writers, what it does to your imagination?
Imagination needs input – true. We need to read news, hear the thoughts of others, see things. But in the past, after we’d read, spoken, travelled – seen, smelled, heard – we would have time when our mind would wander. A walk home, a boring meeting, a skin crinkling bath, a queue, even stirring that sauce – were all chances to think. Those idle moments when new thoughts formed – when colours and patterns morphed, when something you read or heard coupled with something you remembered and made something new. A spark. An idea. A desperate search for paper, a scribbled note to self and a new project embarked upon. But what if these moments are all taken? Filled with the ideas of others – the thoughts already thought. When do we come up with new ideas?
The easy answer is to declare that phones will be left in pockets, hours will be attributed as ‘no phone zones’ or that we will make sure we have time, every day when we take some time to ourselves, and just think. But is any of that realistic? Lives are built around speed – rushing from place to place (consuming). Are our minds even set up to bear boredom anymore? To accept fallow time, where minds are left to restore their fertility. In short, if phones are so easy to put down, then why are so many faces still glowing in the dark?
I don’t have answers, just questions. So, I put it to you, the writers. How do we wrestle our idle moments back? And what happens if we fail?
Gary Huddless – WEM Marketing Manager, writer, phone user and ex-thinker