So I lost my iPhone before going on vacation last week. By lost I mean left it on the toilet roll in the ladies room at Union Station because I was thinking about how much I wanted a Cinnabon.
“Where the F is my phone?!” I say to Danny while we’re on the train 3 minutes from blast off.
I’m doing a routine purse-check for the iPhone (which I do every time I have mental down time to see what all you fine folks are doing on Facebook), and it dawns on me.
I suggest we call up customer service and get someone to fetch it from the loo.
Instead, Danny takes off and runs to Concourse Hall and… into the bathroom? I imagine him shouldering all the stall doors open and scaring all the ladies until one forks over my phone.
3 minutes isn’t long. The conductor says the doors are closing. And they do. I wait for Danny to come back and pry the pneumatic doors open with my life line to the internets.
We start to roll forward and Danny shows up from another car. Oh thank god. Wait — where’s my phone?!
What if someone posts another This Advertising Life GIF I need to see?
What if someone sends a message, comments on a post, shares a cool article, and/or confirms my likeability by liking something I posted?!
What if I need to look up what a mirken is?!!
That first day, like an itchy addict, I notice a bizarre compulsion to think about the phone.
It happens when there’s nothing immediately happening. Or if I’m standing around by myself. Or sitting in the car.
Nothing is happening –> Neurons don’t know what to do with themselves –> Neurons complain to arms but arms know there’s no phone in purse –> Neurons start poking walls of brain –> Neurons: Meeeeehhhh entertain us!
Fuck you, neurons! Get used to having a less-than-explosions level of mental stimulation!
They were like junk-food junkies having their french fries taken away and replaced with apples.
Does this affect you?
Maybe you’re like me; your brain’s pleasure centres fire every time you see notifications on Facebook or Twitter or email or texts. Weeeeeee someone wants to talk to me!
Or maybe you think you’ll miss out on something if you don’t check your tweets.
Or maybe you feel awkward waiting in line at the grocery store looking at your shoes.
If not, I encourage you to try this:
Go get a coffee, or if you’re adventurous, lunch. By yourself. And don’t bring a book or paper or magazine — just have a sit and see how long it takes before you want to check your phone.
If it’s not for the instant gratification of information, or the false feeling of connectedness to others, or an oversensitivity to boredom, I’d venture to say we at least feel very awkward looking like we have nothing to do around others and would rather busy ourselves with this:
I’m happy to say that after a day of noticing my urges for constant hits of internet, I stopped having them for the rest of the vacation.
They’re not gone forever, but I did give less of a poop than usual about some of the tech updates in my newsfeed today, including this one about retail coat hangers that display Facebook Likes so you can fit in even easier with popular opinion.
In any case, I resolve to spend less time in the digital world and more time in the real one.
Here are some exercises you can do with me, if you, too, have been addicted to the internet since 1994:
- Observe life outside streetcar window instead of trying to beat friend’s Bejewelled score.
- Call a friend. With phone.
- Say hi to strangers on sidewalk/in elevator instead of pretending to check phones together.
- Designate chunks of time to catch up on messages, emails, posts, and cuteoverload.com.
- Be okay with not knowing who the guy with the hair was from that band from that movie.
Tech and the web are undeniably valuable in our lives, and I’m not about to become a hermit. I’m just starting to realize I’ve been consuming digital information like I eat kettle corn (absentmindedly and staring) and my brain is going to get fat and lazy.
As someone who revels in my senses, experiences, and real life connections, I’d like to shut off a lot of those virtual fixes that I’ve let stand in for engaging in real life, curiosity, and creativity.
Picture all the time you spend consuming content through a screen as if the screen was blank, and you’ve been staring at a flat box.
I dunno about you, but that suddenly makes me want to unplug.
(But keep reading my blog )
F the Desk