Social Disconnect: Going Phoneless
I’ve gone almost a whole month without a cellphone. In the first world, this is considered to be a real “crisis.” To everyone else in the world, we probably look like a bunch of whiny, technology-obsessed spoiled brats who’ve forgotten how to connect face-to-face. For me, it’s been truly inconvenient, but enlightening in many ways.
Now, don’t get me wrong–I didn’t make a strong ethical decision to go device-less for a while. In fact, I damaged my iPhone in one of the most cliche ways, by literally dropping it into a cup of water. Cool, eh? I’d love to see the look on an Apple employee’s face when they heard that. I’m sure their response would be something akin to “are you for real, lady?” Moving on, I somewhat enjoyed being disconnected for the first week, but that new-found relief was quickly followed by frustration and grief (yes, I mourned the loss of my little technological helper).
It wasn’t long before I started missing appointments, forgetting social dates and feeling completely overwhelmed by my inability to function daily without this shiny and insanely expensive device. I wasn’t aware of just how heavily I was relying on my phone to manage my life. I don’t know almost anyone’s phone number by heart, except for my mum’s (praise Jesus!) and my boyfriend’s.
I also put every to-do list item on my phone and therefore count on it to tell me what I need to do daily to be a powerhouse yoga teacher and writer. Let’s just say, a few to-dos have fallen to the wayside (perhaps, permanently) since my cell went to smartphone heaven. Up until now, I’ve also put all of my social and professional engagements into my phone calendar and have been really struggling to remember where I’m supposed to be and when.
To flesh out this tech-less picture a little more, we need to add social isolation to the mix–or shall I say perceived social isolation. I’ve created all sorts of stories in my head about being socially disconnected since my phone gave out–experiencing something similar to what the cool kids call “FOMO” or fear of missing out. I’ve used Facebook comments and frustrated emails I’ve received from friends and family– asking why I’m not responding to texts or calls– as fuel to keep my disconnection story alive, too. I now realize how I’ve been using my phone as a crutch, a lazy way to reach out to others and stay up-to-date with what’s happening.
I don’t believe traditional face-to-face conversation is a thing of the past. However, I do believe it’s a somewhat dying trend that we need to revive. I’m having more mind-blowing, perspective-bending conversations with strangers and familiars now than ever before. I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to people physically, in REAL space and time to make connections and plans. All the while, I’ve been enjoying NOT hearing that pestering ‘ding’ every time a text goes unanswered for more than two minutes, or watching those OCD-inducing red notifications pop up on my apps begging to be attended to, like a needy six year old who wants you to “look at me!”
To sum it up, having no phone has been both freeing and frustrating. It has shown me how heavily I rely on technology to get me by on a day-to-day basis, and it has forced me to connect in a real, tangible way with other people. Not to mention I’m more keenly aware now how seemingly poor my sense of direction is while driving. All you confused navigators out there know what it’s like to head out to a new destination without a GPS. It’s scary, and somewhat hilarious. As I try to do with every challenge in life, I take this as an opportunity to learn some lessons and grow from them.
Once I get a new phone (at the very least I need one to keep my business alive) I’ll enjoy uploading music onto it again, having the ability to chat with whomever I want in a variety of ways and the relief Siri’s driving directions will bring to me on the road. However, I’ll also remember the joy connecting with people in flesh can bring and I’ll remember how it is possible to survive without a cellular device. Sometimes if we choose to not unplug, the universe will force us to. Lessons learned, perspective tweaked. How often do you unplug?