Smartphones. For all the amazing benefits they provide, they are also responsible for an international epidemic. We can't put them down no matter what is going on. In one particularly startling case, a man was shot on a commuter train and no one looked up from their phones. I think it's crazy and clearly I'm not alone. I hear about more and more people going on "cell phone diets." And companies are even getting on the purge: Giorgio Armani pledge to donate clean water for a day to children in need if a people could stay off their smartphones for 10 minutes. So I decided to give it a try. I went without my cell phone for 24 hours and I'll be honest, it wasn't pretty.
When I told my mom about my plan, she simply replied with an astonished, "Why?" Despite the fact that she all too well remembers a time when there were no cell phones, this little experiment seemed absurd to her.
Indeed, that high-priced, pocket-size piece of tech had become like an extra appendage. It manages everything in my world. My calendar, my son's schedule, work emails, personal emails, photographs, and music. In fact, I can't even imagine driving someplace without the Google Map app.
I was totally unprepared to quit cold turkey. But I did. Let me just say, I didn't get off to such a great start. I completely forgot that my one and only alarm clock is on that phone, so I woke up late. As I scramble to get breakfast ready and my son dressed, I would normally scroll through emails. Now I had to take time to log onto my computer and check before jetting out the door.
Too late to risk subway delays, my son and I hop into a cab. The video monitor is playing ad for new drama about people who are resurrected, which has my son both freaked out and mesmerized. Off button broken and I can't distract him with Candy Crush on my iPhone. What follows is a weird conversation where I try to convince him that people cannot come back from the dead despite what the TV said.
At 830 am, I dropped him off in his classroom and inform teacher to call my office if they need to contact me for any reason. Five minutes later, I am walking toward the subway and instinctively, my hand reaches for my phone. Damn. How do I fill the walking time. However, my angst grows once I get onto the platform. What the hell am I supposed to do now? Perhaps stare at everyone else as they stare at their screens. Shoulda picked up a newspaper.
With nothing to scan or read, the ride is SOOOOOO Boring. God knows what messages I am missing. Not to mention all the ones I could be replying to at this very moment. When I emerge from the subway, I power walk to the office, anxious to get to those messages. As I look around, it's as though every single person has a phone in had except me.
It's sad to say that I feel a sense of great relief once I get to my desktop. No emergencies or major fires to put out while I was radio silent. However, the rest of the day was a bit of a nightmare. I felt tethered to my desk, worried that I would miss an important call or email. And so went the rest of the afternoon as I sat there wondering what text messages might be coming through.
Soon, I came to realize how deep this addiction goes. I had hoped that being disconnected would have provided me with a sense of relief. It didn't. I thought it would feel like a great burden had been lifted, but it was quite the opposite. I felt anxiety-ridden because I was the only one NOT plugged in.
Admittedly, doing this in the middle of busy work and school week is just asking for disaster. Perhaps this would have been easier to do over a weekend, when it acceptable to not be available 24/7 or during a vacation. But going forward, I have resolved to use my phone just a little bit less. There is so much I don't pay attention to when my eyes are trained at that tiny screen. To make use of that old adage, I should stop and smell the roses ... or at the very least, notice any that may be around.
Could you give up your cell phone for 24 hours? A week? A month?
Image via Ian Lamont/Flickr