What do you suppose life would be like if you’d never gotten hooked on that oh-so-handy electronic tether? I’m considering finding out. My current contract ends today and I am considering ending my service altogether. I’ve noticed, or allowed myself to admit, that my phone is always in my hand. It comes between me and other people. It gets in the way of me just being in a moment because I’m trying to “capture” it with my phone. I’m constantly checking to see if anyone has responded to posts on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram. And email! Oh, the email. At one point I had a Blackberry, so I have been trained to treat email as a compulsion.
But what if all of that just went away? Is life really better with the screen constantly calling for my attention? The Internet, through our phones and devices, is one giant siren call grabbing our attention and stealing it from us. I feel like we are being trained to be inattentive to those around us, to the task at hand, to the road ahead. Is this really an acceptable way of life?
I hate how I reach for my phone every time I have a spare second. My son is doing something I don’t need to be 100% engaged with in homeschool and I grab my phone to check my notifications. It is sad. It is sad how I have allowed myself to fall into this trap, this need to be entertained every second of the day. I find that it even gets in the way of my reading. It is getting more and more difficult to pick up and sustain assiduity with a challenging text when my phone is always right there. It isn’t challenging, it isn’t good for me, it is, in fact, mental junk food.
I have also been trained to take up bad habits because of it. Think about it, because of how in touch these devices allow us to be, punctuality doesn’t seem to matter any more. Before cellphones I was hardly ever late because I had no way of letting the people I was meeting know that I would be late. It was rude to leave someone waiting on you that way. But now we have cellphones–>therefore we can text to announce we are going to be late–>therefore we make choices that make us run late–>therefore we do text to announce we are going to be late–>therefore we arrive late. Each step inexorably leads to the next, with cell swooping in at the last minute to save the day via the panacea of notification, a solution to a problem of its own creation.
And the inverse of this is even worse. It used to be that cellphones were a convenience, being able to get in touch with anyone any time you needed seemed like a good thing, it gave you a feeling of power and security. But it also means people can always have access to you. 83% of adults now have some kind of cellphone. Do the math. How many numbers do you have stored in your phone? Fifty, a hundred, more? Well, now they’re the people for whom your phone is a great convenience, and they know it. They know that they can call you and wherever you are, even if you don’t pick up, they have asserted their presence as a part of your day. And, because our always connected lifestyles have trained us to think this way, they expect you to respond and respond NOW. Your cellphone is no longer your friend.
I don’t know what to expect. I do think it will be hard to begin with. I fully expect “withdrawal” to be awful. But I am looking forward to checking my email once a day, setting aside a time to deal with all of it and not thinking about it for the rest of the day. I plan on treating my social networks the same way. I am hoping I will get some of my attention back, I hope to gain some freedom from the always “on call” lifestyle that so many of us seem to fall into, and I am definitely looking forward to breaking the tyranny of experiencing life through a tiny screen.
I could be hoping for too much. It may prove too big a change for me to stick with, who knows. I guess we will see.