Four Things My Week Without a Cell Phone Taught Me
September 19, 2013
You often see articles and books entitled “What my year volunteering in Africa taught me” or “What surviving cancer taught me”. So I want to start by saying that I recognize that being without a cellphone for seven days is not a powerful, life-altering experience. I also recognize that there are far more terrible things in the world than having your cellphone stolen. I 100% get that! However, the experience really taught me something, and a lesson learned is a lesson learned, right?
My phone was stolen right out of my purse one night a couple weeks ago and I weeped as though I just lost a child. I cried actual tears over a rectangular piece of plastic. I felt hollow and empty without it. I felt like I couldn’t function in it’s absence – and that’s when I realized something was seriously wrong. How did I become so attached to and dependent on this thing? The first couple days were rough, that’s generally how withdrawal works. Cellphones are an addiction – no doubt about it. But a few days in, I started to feel an odd sense of relief, and although cellphones certainly make our world a lot more convenient, I really do feel like I could have gone even longer without it (says the girl who hugged the Purolator man upon delivery of the replacement). Through it all, I learned some pretty interesting lessons while I was phone-less and I wanted to share them. I by no means wish to come off as sanctimonious – I fully admit that I am guilty of everything I speak of – but I do hope that you can take something away from what I learned without actually having to have your phone stolen! Enjoy!
1) Phones have made the real world seem boring. You’re sitting on a city bus waiting to arrive at your destination. What are you doing? You’re probably reading your emails, texting friends, or lurking social media sites. You might even be playing games. You’re so enthralled in your little device that you miss that a little boy just gave up his seat on the bus for an older woman. You miss that two friends were just reunited after a summer a part and are joyfully celebrating their reunion. You miss a funny conversation between a mother and her toddler behind you. When I was phone-less, I was forced to pay attention to the ‘little details’ of my everyday lived experience that I usually overlook when I am glued to a screen. I have to say, these ‘little details’ often make my day. Be present – enjoy your world! Trust me, it’s way more interesting than your grade 6 classmate’s Facebook profile picture comments.
2) Phones have made us rude. I never realized how annoying it is to have a conversation with someone while they are playing on their phone until I didn’t have a phone to be on. It made me think of times when I have been sitting at a table checking my phone while my almost 91 year old grandmother was sitting beside me. How sad and embarrassing is that? I have probably done this every day of my life since owning a cellphone, but I didn’t realize how terrible of a habit it is until recently. How have we gotten to a point where we choose these toys over real live human interaction? Now when I talk to someone, I try to focus 100% on what they are saying and just be completely in the moment with them and their words. If we are ever in mid-conversation and I check my phone – slap me.
3) Phones keep us from just simply thinking. On about day 2 of my phone-less adventure, I was waiting in a long lineup at school for something. There were about 50 people in front of me and they were all on their phones. At first I enviously watched them and daydreamed of the familiar movement of my thumbs while typing a text message, then I just simply started to think. “Wow, this time four years ago I was standing here in the same lineup. I’ve grown so much as a person since then. I’m proud of myself. I am very…” etc. I just simply thought. I reflected and pondered and hypothesized, and it felt great! As we continue to take up every second of our free time staring at a screen, our own thinking is going extinct. Plato once said, “Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.” Your soul needs to get some things off its chest – hear it out!
4) Phones make us waste our own time. I think we all know how distracting phones are. We decide to check an email and 45 minutes later there we are watching a YouTube video of an ostrich and a baby giraffe playing tag. I was so productive when I didn’t have a phone that even now that I have a new one, I feel guilty if I’m on it and not doing something valuable with my time. I now go into class and turn my phone off because I am so disappointed thinking of all the classes I wasted sitting in the back row on my phone rather than listening to my professor – an expert in the field that I hope to one day be in. Once again, a sad and embarrassing fact. If you want to be productive, turn your phone off for an hour. I promise it will be the most productive hour of your day.
Although I’m still pretty bummed about losing so many pictures on my phone and having to spend money on a new one, I’m grateful for the experience as I would never have come to all these realizations otherwise. The best lessons really are learned the hard way.
Thanks for reading everyone! Now turn off your phone and go hug someone!