By: Laurenne Sala
My phone fell into the toilet. With just the unbuttoning of my pants, a miniscule splash warned me of its plunge from my back pocket. My super-fast reflexes got it out within seconds, but the device fizzled to its untimely death. Dead phone.
I guess I can’t really call it a dead phone. The little machines we constantly hold within reach are much more than phones. Mine was a map, an address book, a note pad, a Scrabble game, a news channel, and a constant connector to all things human. It’s strange I rely on something so mechanical to connect me with other humans, but I do. We all do. Everywhere. In elevators. In traffic. All. The. Time. Recently, despite my greatest efforts, I felt I was slipping into an abyss of super connectivity. I’d become too attached to my sweet, sweet device. I would freeze in anxiety when I couldn’t find it for just one minute. I would check my email two minutes after I had just checked it. I would tweet after sex. Just finished greatest kegel workout ever. LOL.
Lately I’d grown fearful of my attachment to technology, so when my phone went the way of the toilet, I decided to see how long I could go without it. Disconnected from my network, I would learn to connect with reality. I would eat out alone while reading a newspaper. I would write my friends letters…with a pen. I would make conversation in elevators instead of pretending to craft a VIP email while really texting penis jokes. I hypothesized that this new untethered lifestyle would convince me to give up my phone forever. I had only had a smart phone since May, so it couldn’t be that hard to completely disconnect. No landline. No SIM card. No texts. No problem.
Day One was refreshing. I was a free bird. Nobody could interrupt me or even find me. I felt more aware in traffic– just me, the other cars, and NPR. No sneaking texts while looking out more for cops than the road.
On Day Two, I walked to a coffee shop. With no palm distractions, I noticed more flowers. I smiled at more people. Phone who?
And then came Days Three and Four. I had to make plans. I had to return calls. I wondered what my mom was doing. Mostly, though, I needed my phone to tell people I was late. Or that I’d forgotten something and needed them to bring it. Or that I actually wouldn’t make it to their party even though I said I would. Not having a phone turned me into an incompetent bitch. Or did the phone itself turn me into an incompetent bitch?
I realized that our phones allow us to be late, to not show up, to forget things. One quick “can’t make it” text clears the schedule without any confrontation. Have our phones created a world of flakey, non-confrontational wusses? Without a phone, I was forced into accountability. I also developed a better relationship with my nails, as I was constantly cleaning them out instead of playing Scrabble.
I could do this. I wanted to be accountable. I wanted clean nails.
By Day Six, my friends had bombarded me with hate emails, each one annoyed that they couldn’t ask a quick question or tell me they were waiting out front. Though being unreachable feels somewhat like a relief, it’s a pain for those who need to reach you.
After the first week, that was my professional conclusion:
Being disconnected is possible, but not within a society so connected.
Now that I’m rounding Day Twelve, I’ve found a less professional conclusion:
Help! I’m lonely. I’m dying inside. I NEED my texts. I WANT TEXTS now.
We’re in an era where human interaction does not require voice or touch. A simple clickity click and my cousin gets a picture of a random penny because we have that joke about random pennies. A text doesn’t only warn of tardiness. It’s also the easiest way to say hi, that you love somebody, that you you’re thinking of them. Some may argue that it’s impersonal, but in a world where friends live so far away, texts are all the humanity we can sometimes get. I can give up the map and the notepad and the Scrabble, but I want the friends I’m used to carrying with me. Going twelve days without them has left me helpless and empty. I surrender.
Once I get my phone repaired, I will more than make up for my days without texting. And I’ll send plenty of penny pictures. However, I am committing right now to being a conscious phone user. I vow that I will not fall back into that zombie-like zone of constant downward head-tilting and incompetency.
And to my nails, I promise we’ll keep up our new relationship.