Pokémon Go appeared on the scene and immediately took over the planet. Yelp updated their business profiles to where we could see if they had a Pokéstop nearby. Public areas became flooded with Pokémon trainers of all ages searching for Dragonite, Snorlax, and Pikachu. Of course it would be easy to look the phenomenon and scoff because, after all, it’s just a bunch of people walking around staring at their phones, pretending to catch cartoon animals, right?
I decided to give Pokémon Go a shot after it had been out for a couple of weeks and almost everyone I know was raving about it. I never played Pokémon as a kid and had no clue anything about the game or characters, except for the ones that appeared in Super Smash Bros. I thought it may be one of those things that I mess with for an hour or two and then forget about it until I run out of space on my phone and need to delete some useless apps instead of a few of the 14,000 pictures I clearly need and treasure.
After a couple of days, I was completely hooked. It wasn’t one of those games where you could just sit in front of your TV and play it for hours, or Candy Crush that left me so frustrated at times I wanted to fling my phone into the ocean. It’s something that required you to move in order to play. So if I were in the back of a Lyft, instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram looking at a never-ending sea of selfies, I would grab all the free items from PokéStops to catch more Pokémon. PokéStops are these little blue markers on landmarks you’d see all over town. I realize it sounds silly, but it became so fun to track Pokémon I didn’t have or try to get enough of a certain type to evolve it into a new one. Does that sound ridiculous? Of course! But you know what else sounds ridiculous? Everything! Instagram is an app where you post your photos for your friends and strangers to decide if they like or not. How is that a thing we’re all cool with? Twitter is a site where you just talk and maybe people will decide to listen. They’ll complain about what you said, even though they don’t know you, and then you get to debate and argue with strangers over things you don’t really care about until you’re both furious. Sounds great!
With the 2016 Presidential Election being such a media dumpster fire it’s turned social media into a bit of a nightmare. Facebook is overflowing with hot takes from people who have no idea what they’re talking about and who want nothing more than to argue all day. I found myself spending WAY too much time getting sucked into the useless debates. I would post a news story and, no matter what it was, someone would jump in with an absolutely idiotic opinion on it and the next 40 comments would be nothing but arguing. I would find myself in a terrible mood at the end of the day and nothing bad happened, except for Facebook arguments with racist idiots. And at the end of it, nothing had changed. They were still racist and ignorant and I was still frustrated.
It took way too long, but I finally realized, “What’s the point of debating garbage strangers on Facebook?” I know, I know, that’s an obvious statement, but it’s so easy to get sucked into. You can post a dozen facts and they’ll find some obscure, personal blog written by someone as credible as a sidewalk diaper, and use it to justify their opinion. Beyond realizing how many people are terrible, it was unnecessarily exhausting.
So I replaced mindless social media time with mindless Pokémon time. I work at a desk for the majority of my time, so I schedule a break every day where I go out for a walk, turn on some music, and catch Pokémon. It sounds silly, but it’s such a relaxing break from the world. Plus, I started getting so much more exercise. I could easily go days where I would just write for 10-12 hours per day and the only walking I did was to the shower or kitchen. In the first two weeks after downloading Pokémon Go, I walked 23 miles. It improved my mood and I felt better just from getting out and being in the sun. Instead of just watching a movie on free nights, I would drive out to the Santa Monica Pier and join thousands of other nerds catching Pokémon. My friends and I spent hours out there. Conversations would start up between strangers that would’ve never had a reason to talk if it weren’t for playing a game. It’s such a friendly community that you could even come out by yourself and feel like you’re part of a group. I would walk through a park and see couples in their 60s power-walking around looking for Pokémon. Groups of teenage boys are always walking around my neighborhood now. Do you realize how crazy it is for teenage boys that just want to play video games to say, “Hey mom, we’ll be back later. We’re going to walk around the block a few times.” It’s causing kids to want to exercise. That’s a huge accomplishment.
The app won’t stay around forever. They rarely do. But if you need a break from the flood of social media activity without the temptation of checking your apps, while also getting out of the house and exploring some new areas, it might be exactly what you’re looking for. Just don’t get better than me and start taking over all my Poké Gyms, okay?