I wish I was committed enough to say that I selflessly ditched my phone just to write this article. In reality? I went out for a few drinks one night and woke up with a hangover where my phone should have been. For a month after that, blind optimism and intense laziness thwarted my attempts to buy a new one.
I’m an avid phone user. Like most people my age, I take my phone everywhere, check every notification and periodically slap my pocket to check it’s there (and freak the fuck out if it’s not). Every night I shut my laptop and swear I’m going to head to bed and next thing I know it’s 1.30am in the morning and I’m stalking photos on Instagram of my second cousin’s best friend from primary school from 56 weeks ago.
So when I lost my phone, I thought it would hit pretty hard. It turns out it wasn’t too bad.
Here are some mildly interesting things I found from the whole ordeal:
1. We all really suck at making plans
A month without a phone quickly teaches you the importance of solid planning and how much other people fucking suck at it. With a phone in hand, there isn’t much need for concrete plans. It’s an unspoken rule that meeting at 7pm really means meeting sometime between 7pm and 8pm subject to a texting conversation where everyone admits they’re running late. Or in the case of pre-drinks, 7pm actually means 9.30pm if you really want to be early.
Without a phone, military style regimented plans must be put into place if you don’t want to look like an idiot. When you’re in a wifi zone, you frantically set all your plans in motion, before free-falling into communication abyss once you step out the door. It’s surprisingly comforting knowing that there’s nothing you can do but follow the plan. It’s less comforting once you arrive at your destination alone with no idea where anyone is and no phone to play on so you don’t look awkward.
2. Phones don’t decrease socialising, they promote it
One of the biggest criticisms of smartphones is that they promote anti-social behaviour. Well frankly, that’s bullshit. Good luck trying to organise meaningful social interactions without a phone. Many times I was trudged to the shops alone because I couldn’t contact my friends, whereas I would have normally tapped out a quick message and had company. Phones make it easy to organise flexible, last minute plans to hang out with people. I found myself struggling to keep up with friendships without having the ability to message friends at the tip of my fingers.
3. I forgot how to read a map
My usual process for reading maps was as follows:
- Type the address into Google maps
- Disregard all street names and concentrate on that little blue dot and it’s beautiful little direction arrow
- Carry my phone flat, and spin around in circles waiting until the arrow points in the way I should go
- Follow that blue dot wherever it takes me
- Swear and refresh when the dot randomly jumps to another suburb
Turns out that beautiful blue dot isn’t so useful when you don’t have a phone. Instead, you’re forced to remember exact directions or rack your brain to remember the route (not my strong suit) or better yet scrawl directions on your arm.
4. We get a lot of pointless notifications on Facebook
The first few times I got home and opened up my laptop to see 12 notifications and 4 new messages, I have to admit my ego was slightly tickled. But when you actually see what the notifications are, you realise just how mind-numbingly pointless most are.
No Facebook, I don’t care that I have memories with seven people today, I would really rather not be reminded of that status I made in year 8. Also I do not give a shit that three of my friends are “interested” in an event near me. We all know “interested” means “that looks cool so I’ll click interested but I know I’ll never go”. If you’re mindlessly dismissing them all day with your phone, you barely notice these notifications. But come home to a torrent of them and you realise how little your notifications actually relate to you.
5. Your friends will hate you (a lot)
When you lose your phone, expect to lose a few friends. Or you know, at least drive them to the point where they seriously reconsider your friendship.
“Oi can I borrow your phone for a bit?”
“Oi what’s your password again?”
“Oi can I please use Facebook for a while?”
“Okay your music fucking sucks. Why don’t you have Spotify it’s 2016”
Once I inserted the long awaited sim card in an old iPhone the size of a brick (with about as much functionality as one too) – I fully expected to be flooded with text messages from scores of people trying to contact me. Not quite. The amount of messages was less of a torrent and more of a measly trickling from parents and friends asking for minor favours. It seems obvious, but people quickly stop trying to contact you when you don’t reply. Plus Facebook has almost removed the need for text messaging (well that’s what I’m telling myself anyway).
6. You will be much less informed about friends and the world
We all know it. Social media has turned us all into low-level professional stalkers, fully aware of each other’s every movements.
Without a phone, you quickly fall out of the loop. It’s scary how much information we subconsciously retain from a quick Facebook or Instagram scroll or a glance at Snapchat and how many social interactions revolve around it, especially with people you haven’t seen for a while. Suddenly everyone is asking about someone else’s coast trip and laughing at that hilarious Instagram they put up. Laugh with them but not too hard.
7. You look out windows a lot more without a phone
It’s only when you lose your phone do you realise how much you spend looking at it. Look up from your phone for a minute on a bus or train and note how many people are glued to their screens. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – many are reading articles and communicating with friends. But it’s striking all the same. I mildly freaked out on the bus to work the other day because I didn’t recognise anything I was seeing out the window. Turns out I was on the right route – I’d just never looked out enough to register that part of the journey. Or I was concentrating way too hard on Serial and psychoanalysing Adnan Syed which is probably more likely (FYI he’s innocent).
There I was standing in front of the register with roughly $70 worth of groceries and no idea how much money was on my card. With a phone, I am a slave to internet banking, constantly keeping my access account low to track how much money I’m wasting away each week. The odds of having enough money in my account? Pretty low. I tapped my card and waited in excruciating silence. This time, I scraped the amount. I wasn’t so lucky at the bottle shop. That walk of shame to put back your $6 bottle of wine is truly demoralising.