So. It’s been a while since I wrote. Life has been busy. It’s been hard adjusting to life back in the UK. I have felt, many times, like a visitor to the place I call ‘home’. It’s a strange kind of dislocation. I belong-I don’t belong-I belong-I don’t belong. And so on.
Feeling slightly disconnected from the familiar has helped me to see, with fresh eyes, that which was once so “normal”. So familiar I didn’t notice anymore.
During this time, I’ve been outside the smartphone bubble. I broke mine (dropped in the lav!) just before we went to SA. For three months, I had a pretty useless attempt at a phone. But it did let me call and it did let me text. And something strange happened. I found myself more at peace. Less stressed. Less hassled. I didn’t have emails at my fingertips, pinging both day and night. No Facebook, no Twitter. No apps.
Since returning to this land, I have been even more aware of the dominion of the smartphone. Mine has been in the menders, so I have had my Dad’s very old, very basic Nokia. It is properly old school. And the battery lasts for days!
I am realising that maybe I am happier with back-to-basics. Maybe I don’t need to be contacted every minute of the day. And night (I now even turn the phone off when I sleep – something I hadn’t done for years). Maybe I can live without relentless access to email/social media/fruit ninja/google maps. I am no longer at the mercy of others (and open to “conversation”) 24 hours a day.
I no longer feel owned by a smartphone.
And I was, until my phone hit the water, one of many “almost addicts”. You might recognise these types: checking emails/FB/Twitter whilst someone is chatting to you/during dinner/while watching a film/while you walk. These types can find time stands still while they play “just one more” mindless, yet deeply compelling, game. These types love getting new can’t-live-without apps. And these types, when their phone is lost/broken/out of service, are utterly lost. Feel slightly (or very) panic-stricken at the thought of a whole day without their phone/comfort blanket. I know that feeling. I was that person.
And I don’t want to be anymore.
Most people spend more time each day with their smartphone than with their partner (an average of 2 hours every day, compared to 97 minutes). 4 out of 5 smart-owners check their phone as soon as they wake up. And stay with their phone for 22 hours a day. 1 in 4 spent 24 hours every day with their smarts. 24 hours…
Yet we are becoming a population that is less focused, less able to concentrate. And – I controversially suggest – less polite, less empathetic too. Would the people who use their phone to say despicable, anonymous things to others also do it face to face? Would another generation (say our grandparents’) think it socially acceptable to play on a phone whilst out for dinner with others? Yet many of us now accept this as “the new normal” (even if it is a bit irritating).
We have become afraid to be on our own – hence relentless checking of our online profiles.
We have become afraid of silence – hence music videos, TV shows and films at our fingertips.
We have become afraid of each other – so we hide behind our phones. And hide from each other.
It’s so much easier to “chat” online nowadays, so much harder for us to look at someone as we talk about our struggles. It’s so much easier to have an online persona – the perfect me! – and so much more vulnerable to be the real me. It’s so much easier to multi-task, do a thousand things at once, than focus – really focus – on just one.
I don’t like the “me” that I was becoming. Distracted. Dependent. Obsessed.
So now, four months on, I am glad I dropped my smartphone in the loo. As soon as it comes back from the phone hospital, I am going to sell it. And stick with my 90’s model.
It’s taken me a while to get to this point. Now I am able to let it go. And not weep.
As Brene Brown said (in what must have been a very different context), “You can be courageous or you can be comfortable but you can’t be both”.
So I am going for courage over my comfort zone.
I will still be available. But not 24 hours a day.
I might take longer to reply to emails.
And I might need to remember how to read a map.
But I honestly think I will be happier. More available to those I love. More present to each precious moment. More at peace.
I am going dumb.