I challenge you to unplug your phone for 24 hours.
There are some who will say: “No way, there is too much of my life on my phone” or some may say: “No problem except what if there’s an emergency?” Some may question: “Why? What’s the point?”
My point in this challenge is to see just how disconnected we are by having 24/7 access and use of our smart phone. The device that keeps us ‘connected’, keeps us ‘in the know’, alerts us, informs us, records us, has also disconnected us from each other, from ourselves.
I’m not going to rant on about how phones at the dinner table are destroying the fabric of our society (I’m old I admit but I’m not old and ‘crotchety’). I’m just going to tell you about my own experience without a phone.
I was on my way to a conference in another city. I was charging my phone in my car on the way to the airport and did not remember it until I was lingering around the gate, looking for a place to sit and ‘check-in’ with e-mails, Facebook, the usual pass-time activities. When I realized I didn’t have my phone, (possibly making a scene searching through my bags), I also realized there was not enough time to go back out to the parking lot, back through security and still catch my flight. I was traveling across country, for four days, without my phone. What would you do?
I bought a book and a candy bar (chocolate helps my anxiety) and boarded the plane. There were some pangs of anxiety as I sat in the center seat and both my neighbor passengers immediately started to ‘connect’, send texts, answer e-mails, talk to their loved ones or co-workers, slip on headphones for soothing ‘take-off’ music. All the things I have used, and relied on my phone for. Instead, I open the candy bar, anxiety quelled, a little.
I read my book, a mystery that kept me enthralled for three and a half hours (and finished on the flight home). When the plane landed I heard all the pings of texts and e-mails received and instead of anxiety bubbling back up I decided ‘it is what it is’ – I don’t have my phone, spent most of my life without a smart phone (okay I do sound a little old here), I’ll be fine.
Some observations from my four days: I found a way to get in touch with ‘home’ – there are still phones in hotel rooms – and let them know I would be ‘out of reach’. I had dinner that night alone, without a book or article to read while I dined and made myself anonymous; instead I looked around the restaurant, noticed the couple who were probably on their first date and the couple who were clearly arguing about something. I remembered the name of my server. I took in the sites of the city from the restaurant window, the people passing by,the sun going down. You may think I’m crazy but my food tasted delicious. I have had plenty of good meals at restaurants, when I have traveled to ‘foreign’ lands (this was Portland, Oregon) and ordered the local cuisine. I hadn’t noticed until this experience of dining alone that reading on my phone has lessened my sense of truly tasting and savoring the food. Food tastes better when you pay attention to how it tastes because you have nothing else to distract you.
During the conference itself I noticed that when the keynote speaker was talking I heard what he had to say; I wasn’t busy taking notes on my Notes app or looking up his website or his Linked In account. I wasn’t being really rude and reading my Facebook messages during his talk (I admit to having been rude a few times before this, well quite a few times actually). Same was true in the small breakout rooms; I paid attention, asked questions, learned more. I did struggle not to comment when people in the front row, THE FRONT ROW, were on their phone while the presenter was talking. I have NOT done that before, too obviously rude; and now I know I won’t do that in the future.
Without my phone I found myself connecting and talking with people more (if they weren’t on their phones); I met several people who had been to this conference as often as I had and we’d never met before.
I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom that the lack of a phone afforded me to NOT answer e-mails, respond to texts or check to see who’s kid did something cute or the latest funny, poignant meme my ‘friends’ posted. I breathed deeper, slept better, felt less stressed, almost giddy – it was weird.
Okay I admit the minute I got my phone back I was right back to where I had been, I spent a lot of time checking out all those cute kids and poignant memes. Took quite a while catching up (and deleting plenty of junk) e-mails and I really do regret not having my phone to take a picture of Mt. Hood on one side and Mt. Ranier on the other during my dinner on the hotel deck. But because I didn’t have a photo I made a point of ingraining it in my memory and I can recall it anytime I want now – without bringing out my phone.
That’s my experience without my phone, not catastrophic, not euphoric, just a few days without my phone reminded me that I do not NEED it. I need people in my life, I need to pay attention to what’s important, to listen when someone speaks, to see, hear, taste and feel my experience.
I challenge you to give up your phone for 24 hours and see what you notice.
Then send me an e-mail or a text and fill me in – I suffer from FOMO.[Fear Of Missing Out]