"Put your smartphone aside, even if just for a little while, and go to town."
If you do, advises Juichi Yamagiwa, an authority on primatology and presently head of the Kyoto-based Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, you'll realize new knowledge and become more aware of your surroundings.
This advice is offered as a "special report" in Shukan Shincho (Jan 27) titled "Smartphone Ramadan."
As the article's lead-in puts it, "Humans have built up a relationship of mutual trust by engaging in such common activities as eating and moving about. But with our over-reliance on smartphones, we are losing that physical communication. Japan's leading gorilla researcher talks about his recommendation of a 'Ramadan,' during which we dare to turn off our phones."
One of the problems today's human beings face is how to live our lives in the limited time available to us. Out of 24 hours in each day, we must delegate a portion of that time to things that sustain our lives, and we can't cut back on activities such as sleeping and eating, and working to support ourselves. So depending on how we manage our daily schedules, only a small amount of time can be said to truly belong to us.
Yamagiwa worries that the time devoted to use of smartphones is eating away at this precious time.
True, smartphones have become virtual necessities that enable a person to quickly contact others. And their search applications can be tapped to help fill in the gaps of things we don't know.
But along with these conveniences, there are negative aspects as well. For instance, we can quickly and easily make contact with others; but this communication is partially symbolic, taking the form of text and pictures. And such tools, Yamagiwa believes, are insufficient for conveying one's feelings.
Haven't you ever thought, "I'm trying my utmost to convey my message, but why aren't they getting it?" The cause of this is that one can't convey one's true feelings only through words, or have one's subtle emotions understood.
This, says Yamagiwa, underscores the importance of non-verbal communications. When meeting face-to-face, he says, it's not just the words we speak that communicate: A discussion involves not only the present situation, but also incorporates aspects involving each individual's personality, their mutual relationship, and what has transpired between them in the past.
Text chat via a smartphone utility, on the other hand, is conveyed only via text, and since other shared matters such as those stated above are involved only superficially, if at all, the impact of the text tends to be overemphasized.
"The relationship between sender and receiver is dispensed with, and any such communication is unable to convey feelings," Yamagiwa explains.
He goes on to state his belief that three freedoms make up human society: Freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
As per the old saying that "two heads are better than one," the mere act of encountering others and conversing leads to knowledge. In order to exercise these three freedoms, you need time to exercise them proactively. I would like to see people set aside that precious time to exercise their humanistic freedoms.
"I myself own a smartphone," Yamagiwa admits. "I keep it in my briefcase and take it out when necessary, which I think is sufficient. I don't deny that it's become a daily necessity in people's lives. However, it is best not to get so swept up in one that you lose your own time or neglect physical communication in favor of messaging."
Yamagiwa's solution? Designating a certain number of hours in each day to refrain from looking at his smartphone, a period he refers to as "smartphone Ramadan." (And yes he is familiar with the Muslim practice of engaging in fasting and other activities during that month.)
His hours of "Ramadan," Yamagiwa feels, inspire him to leave his smartphone alone, while he practices the basic human "freedoms" on which he places greater importance.© Japan Today