For a year, between 2014 and 2015, I did not have a Smartphone. My clunky iPhone 4 had breathed its last breath, the screen had turned a dismal black and no amount of charging, shaking or angry cursing was turning it on again. Giving in to my fate, I laid my beloved smartphone to rest and set about piecing my life back together. An upgrade wasn’t happening anytime soon, and funds would not allow for such purchases, so replacement was not an option. Instead, I ransacked drawers, rummaged through old handbags and asked everyone I knew for a substitute mobile device. What I received was a Nokia, circa 2005. It had a colour screen, it did not (sadly) have ‘Snake’, and it was better than nothing.
My friends and family were utterly horrified, urging me to come to my senses and find some solution to this madness. As they grew more hysterical in their reactions and more extreme in their search for a cure, I became more obstinate that I would not get a new Smartphone. It made me angry that these devices have become so central to our lives that to live without one was a ghastly prospect. As I became more anti SPs, I began to notice signs of their devilry everywhere: from the girl who walked into a lamp-post because she was studying her phone, to kids in high school who sat on the bus in silence as they stared at their screens. I realised that I had a subconscious reaction to search for the Facebook app and scroll through my newsfeed every half hour or so, and that I knew more about an old friend from school’s life who I hadn’t spoken to in a decade, than my own mothers. I grew to loath my ex-self, who would flick through Snapchat instead of concentrating on my husband whilst he spoke to me about his day.
Not having a Smartphone freed my mind of the clusters of crap that would permeate it on a daily basis. I noticed the changing of the seasons because I began to look out the window and see the trees, I became a better friend because my phone would remain inside my handbag during dinner and I was not tempted to check it even once, and I slept far deeper because I was not squinting at the bright, white light of my telephone minutes before I closed my eyes at night. This was modern day meditation, a chance to breathe and to focus on things that mattered.
Whilst I felt fantastic, I was also deeply sad, because I knew that few others were experiencing such an epiphany and the worst part was to know that most others had no desire to. Watching a two year old child flicking through a telephone, the wrist movement already second nature to them, broke my heart. Hearing reports of children lacking the skill of imagination because of being exposed visually to everything, from learning at school to constant access to Youtube filled me with anger. This obsession is not only affecting our eyesight and our limbs (scientists predict that this generation will struggle with repetitive strain injuries in wrists and thumbs due to overuse of Smartphones), but also our minds. How can skilled writers, poets or artists come into being when they have never had to disappear into their own minds to visualise something, or never have to play make-believe because they are stuck in front of a small screen?
Truthfully, the only thing I missed about my Smartphone was Google Maps, because my sense of direction is horrifying. Truthfully, some of my friendships suffered due to my lack of Smartphone, because I had know access to the constant chatter on WhatsApp groups, making me appear like an absent friend. Truthfully, I LOVED not being chained to said groups, I didn’t WANT to talk to people all day, even with my best friends. I wanted a break, from the neck aches of looking down at a miniature keyboard, to the expectation of 24/7 contact. I felt released and revived.
A position in Marketing and PR, however, was not conducive to a lack of Smartphone – how else was I to access Instagram, or to reply to my boss’ e-mails at 11pm, when out at a bar with my friends?! I realised that the job in Social Media I had thought I wanted, was not something I actually wanted at all. No money was worth wasting most of my day endlessly ‘liking’ photos, or selecting the most PC emoji.
I understand that it is perhaps not realistic to not have a Smartphone and, after much pushing from my friends, and being offered, no, begged to accept a free Smartphone from a friend, I now own a Samson Galaxy. I urge you, however, to be aware of how much your phone runs your life, and to take a damn break from it. Phones do not belong at the dinner table, in the bedroom, or in the hands of young children. Get it together people and put your phone down.