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Can you be alone without your phone?

Is this gentleman using his phone to really just make him look less awkward while sitting alone? (The Hobo Traveler)

Have you ever whipped out your phone to avoid talking to a shady character on the street or a notoriously verbose co-worker in the hall? Or -- let's be honest -- have you just pretended to talk or text until they passed by? If so, you're not alone.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that of the 83 percent of American adults who own cell phones, 13 percent have pretended to use their cell phone to avoid interaction with other human beings. Frankly, I think that number is low -- especially in younger generations. People just don't want to admit they pretend to use their cell phone, or they don't want to admit that they would rather fake text their mom than quietly walk by the stranger on the street or chance a hello at a co-worker.

Let's take this one step further beyond just using the phone as a tool to avoid human interaction. What about the times when you're waiting for your friend outside a restaurant? Can you stand there quietly without reaching for your phone? Perhaps even more difficult, waiting to meet someone whom you've never met in a public place. You don't know what they look like; do you look around for someone who is searching too or do you turn to your phone to look busy? Gone are the days of feeling comfortable while people watching and forget about stopping and smelling the roses. Next time, you see a couple on a date in a restaurant, see what happens when one of them goes to the restroom. Inevitably, the other will almost always check their phone for missed calls, to text friends about how the date's going, to just avoid staring at their food or taking in restaurant ambiance? I'm not sure.

People use their phones these days to avoid looking awkward, out-of-place and unimportant. Yes, unimportant. I believe that's what it all comes down to. People like to look busy; it makes them feel important. That and thanks to technology, we no longer like the feeling of actually being alone. The Pew survey found 42 percent of people using their phones to cure boredom, which I've seen set in within 30 seconds of inactivity.

I'm guilty too. I have to challenge myself to just stand on the corner while waiting for a friend to show up. In this age of multi-tasking (and when everyone else looks so busy walking by on their smartphones), it does feel awkward to just stand there and watch the world. But frankly, no one has ever bothered me and no one has really ever paid any attention to the fact that I'm not playing on my phone. They're often too self-absorbed with their own.

With 29 percent of those surveyed stating that within the last month they had to power down to get away from technology for awhile, perhaps learning to revel in the awkwardness that is standing or sitting alone is a way to avoid this feeling in the first place.

h/t PC World

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