A group of people looking at their phones.

April 10, 2024, by UoN School of English

Me and My Other Life as an Online Conscience

I can’t remember the last time I left the house without my phone. Hell, even leaving a room without it leaves me feeling like I’m missing a limb. Because why would I live in the moment when I could live through the moments of other people? More interesting people. Flicking through stories and posts and thoughts and ideas like an endless library intent on wasting my time, consuming my every waking moment. 

 It’s not something I blame myself for really, when we have every piece of information and every thought ever dreamt up right at our fingertips in a device that can fit comfortably into our pockets, when we have every single one of our friends readily available at the other end of a screen. Which is brilliant I suppose, but god, it’s exhausting being that friend on the other end of the screen. 

There was once a world, not too long ago, where being out of the house equated to being unreachable (unless you could find and spare change to make use of the telephone booth). Going out with friends never meant having to take the ‘perfect picture’ for Instagram. It never meant having to help a long-distance friend navigate a breakup while you were on a night-out two hours away.  

But now our phones keep us as a constant presence everywhere, with everyone, and we’re addicted to it.  

It’s getting to the point where I am so intensely addicted that I can’t even be fully present when doing the things I enjoy. Which means, unfortunately, when it comes to work… It’s distracting to say the least. Deadlines get pushed back so that I don’t fall out of touch with friends from home, and essays take twice the effort because staying focused is simply an impossible task on its own.  


A person writing in a notebook with their phone on the side.

Having both a place in the world and a space online feels like being in two places at once, my consciousness split between myself and my online presence. We are the same person, of course, but one of us doesn’t have to consider the real world. One of us can ignore the need to be active and healthy, or the need to be productive. We share the same morals, values and ideas- true enough. But that digital part of us gets to live in the ideal. Online, I am just my mind, detached responsibility or reality or consequence. I don’t have to be a mind and a body. Which is easier. It’s like a breath of fresh air, that I get to keep on breathing. Which is considerably ironic, because it does, in fact, stop me from going outside and breathing in as much fresh air. 

When there’s a version of me that exists solely as a digital presence, it’s difficult not to feel some sort of ‘guilt’ when I forget to keep up with friends. As though I’m not donating enough of myself to my online persona. 

Though, whilst it seems impossible right now to just entirely cut myself off from that world, I am doing my best to spend a little bit more time in the present. Buying flowers, watching the sunset, going out with friends. It’s not too difficult to appreciate what’s there and get lost in that instead. As long as I try. And realise.  

And perhaps throw my phone in a gutter or something, just for good measure. 


— Georgia Darwin, 1st year BA English and Creative Writing

Image credits: Robin Worrall and Chivalry Creative, both on Unsplash

Posted in SocialStudent Words