Ed Sheeran got rid of his phone two years ago. He says life is better — more balanced — now. I don’t know how well Mr. Sheeran’s experience can be applied to the general public. He’s an internationally famous musician and probably has People™ to help him manage his affairs. His status as a celebrity almost certainly affects the key line in the article:
…he got rid of his phone in part because even though people were contacting him constantly, no one was asking him how he actually was.
(Credit to Heidi Moore for bringing this to my attention.)
Certainly part of celebrity is that people are often more interested in what they can get from you than what they can do for you. That’s true for us normal folk as well, of course, but the ratio is a little more balanced. But still, we’re not as engaged in how people are doing as perhaps we should be.
I don’t blame social media or smart phones for this phenomenon. They’re merely tools that amplify our behavior. It’s much easier for us to broadcast how we’re doing (even if we’re not honest about it) and to have others passively consume it. There’s less of a need to actively ask how our friends are doing because they’ve already told us.
But there’s something to be said for the act of actively asking. The very fact that it scales poorly makes it more intimate. Even if you spend your day broadcasting how you are, it can feel good when someone takes the time to check in on you.
The passive trap is easy to fall into. I tend to think of even the most casual of acquaintances as dear friends (whether they reciprocate or not). As a result, I try to be a good friend to many, many people. This is an impossible task, so I end up being a poor friend to most of them. Maybe I should focus more intently on fewer people. Or at least pick one person each day and be more active in how I engage with them.