Today’s world is significantly different than it was just a little over a decade ago, let alone 30 years ago when I was a teenager. Some of those changes are for the better, others are not. Some can be taken either way, depending how you look at things. However you feel about the constant and accelerating changes we’ve seen in the world, I don’t think there are many people who would argue that the world of entertainment is completely different than it was a few short years ago.
Most of us have a source of virtually unlimited entertainment in our pocket – a smartphone. You can watch YouTube and Netflix, see people yelling at each other on Twitter and Facebook and read about pretty much any topic you have the slightest interest in. If you look around in any public place, you’ll probably see more people with their head down staring at a small screen than you will actually communicating with another human face-to-face.
If you want to see a perfect example of this change just look up a live concert from your favourite band from the last few years on YouTube. The majority of the crowd is probably recording the concert on their phones, watching it on a 4-inch screen when the band is right in front of them. When I was younger, the stadium would be filled with the flames from lighters, now it’s filled with the glow of a smartphone screen.
While there are good things about these technological advances, some things are getting lost like the ability to keep yourself entertained without a screen. Whether it’s standing in line at the grocery store, waiting in a doctor’s office or killing time before meeting someone for dinner, I’ll bet you spend most of it swiping and poking at your phone.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. It can be tough to break the habit, I’ll admit, but once you do it’s fascinating how much more interesting those times can be.
Talk To Someone
One of my favourite things to do while I’m waiting in line or sitting in a waiting room somewhere is to strike up a conversation with someone beside me. Just saying “hi” to someone can start a conversation, and having a real life social interaction can be a welcome change from sending texts or Facebook messages back-and-forth.
This can be a challenge for some people. It certainly used to be for me. I’m an introvert by nature and have always felt more comfortable retreating into my own world. But I’ve met a lot of interesting people and had a lot of great conversations since I started stepping out of my comfort zone a bit.
Read a Book
My iPhone always has something for me to read. Whether it’s catching up on email, reading my Twitter or Facebook feed or reading the latest news on my favourite websites, I can always read something. Technically, I can even read a book on it with an app like Kindle or iBooks.
But there’s something about sitting down with a real book that just can’t be matched by a bunch of pixels on a screen. The information sticks with me better when I read it in a real book and as a bonus, it never runs out of battery or crashes.
This is something I used to do all the time when I was in school. I would constantly be doodling something while I was listening to my teachers, studying or talking to someone on the phone. But somewhere along the line, I lost the habit.
When I started carrying a pen and notebook with me all the time, I started again and it’s strangely relaxing. I’m not an artist (far from it, in fact) but it’s not about drawing something good, it’s more about the tactile feel of the pen or pencil on the paper. Studies have shown that you tend to remember things better when you write them down than when you type them. I find that even doodling while I read something helps activate whatever part of my brain that makes this happen and I tend to remember it better afterward.
Play a Board Game
This is another thing that’s becoming a bit of a lost art. It’s at the point where most of the board games that I remember playing are available as apps on my phone and computer. Much like writing notes vs typing notes, however, playing the actual game just seems more fun.
This generally means you need at least one other person to play with but if you’re on your own, try playing solitaire with an actual deck of cards. Again, these games are all available electronically but playing with a deck of cards can be a lot more meditative.
I’ve done this all my life. It’s fascinating to just sit and watch the people around me and see the little triumphs, crises and conflicts happening as they pass through my space.
And frankly, it’s even more interesting to do with so many people intent on their phones and other technology. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen entire families sitting at a table in a restaurant, each looking at their own phone and not saying a word to one another. Or two people who look like they’re together sitting in an airport waiting for their flight, both focused intensely on whatever game they’re playing.
Next time you feel the urge to pull out your phone to “kill some time” try doing something different. The world isn’t going to end if you don’t check the latest post on Twitter or Facebook, or don’t look at your email for a few hours. But you just might see something or talk to someone that you would have missed if you weren’t paying attention.