Today I left my phone at home. I was inspired by Michael Harris after finishing his book Solitude to step back from the device that controls my life and have a look around at what is actually around me. I'm not embarrassed to say that my phone controls me because I'm sure that's an acknowledgement most people in today's society would make about their pocket sized devices. Its abilities to predict the weather dictates how we dress, the digital bus schedule tells us when we'll get to work, and the social media platforms at our fingertips show us who cares enough to know what we are up to on another mundane day.
I was apprehensive to attempt this as my mother's voice tore through any sort of filters in my mind and presented scary scenarios that could possibly happen once I stepped out of my house, sans phone. The last thing I wanted was to have to use a pay phone if some sort of emergency happened. In retrospect, I seemed to fear the judgment more than the actual danger of not having a phone with me, but we'll get into that a bit later. What I was most worried about was being bored. I've been so spoiled with every kind of entertainment in the palm of my hands (music, podcasts, videos etc), that I don't know how to deal with the lack of these stimuli. I wouldn't be caught up on this weeks episode of My Favourtie Murder and the Allan Rayman album I had been listening to on repeat won't be bouncing around between my ears on my way to work. It's almost as if I don't know how to hang out with myself anymore and I was determined to attempt it today without the temptation of my phone buzzing in my bag.
I decided to walk to the station because I had no way of telling when the bus would show up at the stop in front of my house. I immediately thought of this as an inconvenience, but realized it was only so in comparison to the alternative. Before I owned a smart phone I never had the luxury of knowing when my bus would show up. It was always a gamble which made me get ready that much faster so that I wouldn't be late. Sweat pooled in the cups of my bra as I made the 10 minute walk in the rising July sun.
I am no stranger to reading on the subway for my trip, but it really hit me today that I didn't have any other option for distraction from the grumbling cart bumping its way along the tracks. It was either read or awkwardly stare at the person sitting across from me. This lack of options also played into effect during my lunch break at work where all I was able to do was eat and stare placidly ahead as I chewed my food. At one point someone came into the break room, saw me eating and staring at the wall blankly, reading whatever bulletins the managers had put up, and I noticed a look of concern cross her face.
Maybe she thought I was expecting her to talk to me or maybe she was so used to me with headphones jammed into my ears that the sight looked odd. Or maybe, my phone had made me so self-centred so as to think someone would even notice or care that I was eating my lunch without any sort of distraction. It was a confusing, tedious, and slightly boring day, but one I'm happy I experienced. Recently I've been wondering what exactly I did before I had a phone and I realized that the phone is not necessarily what changed my behaviour throughout the day, but rather the importance I put on it. Yes, it is very helpful and entertaining, but leaving it at home will not make a significant difference in my life. The thought of being without it was more devastating than actually being without it. At certain times, I even managed to forget all about it.
Edit: Only after I'd written this post I realized that I completely screwed up my work schedule because I didn't have my phone to send me a notification of my hours. Maybe I do need it after all...
How do you handle being away from your phone?