I often wonder how I would cope without my phone.
This magical piece of technology is never far from my grasp. It’s my lifeline - keeping me connected to my family and friends and acting as my sat nav, bank, supermarket and personal encyclopaedia.
As I write this story, at lunchtime, I take a quick inventory. So far today I’ve sent 14 text messages and made eight phone calls. I’ve also used my banking app to transfer money, sent a photo, added calendar events to my diary, updated Facebook and Twitter, made a shopping list on Notepad, checked the Daily Mail’s app and - I admit - played a quick game of Words With Friends with CookieCutter78. And yes, I’m winning.
This is an average morning for me, and yet, at almost 30 years old, I remember clearly a day before mobile phones. In an age where cyber terrorism is a very real threat, our addiction to technology is an interesting thing to ponder. There are things I use every day, with no concept of how I’d get along without them, yet they are relatively recent additions to our lives.
So for one day only, I decided to go back a generation and allow myself only the technology my parents would have used 30 years ago when I was born. Surely we, as a society, haven’t evolved ourselves out of a way of life that was the norm just three short decades ago...have we?
This wasn’t going to be easy. I use the internet to do pretty much everything these days, from paying bills to watching films. I decided that if I had to give up technology, my boyfriend Adam had to too, since we live together and things started badly when we realised that, without our mobiles, neither of us had an alarm to get us up in the morning. Also, instead of typing observations straight on to my laptop, I was forced to write them down with a pen and paper and I’d forgotten how terrible my handwriting is.
Going cold turkey was tough. I kept reaching for my phone, usually in my pocket, and never knew what time it was. And Googling! I had no concept of how much I Google: what do I put in pancake mixture? What is the conversion rate from pounds to dollars? Is Tesco open on Bank Holiday Sunday? What IS the name of that actress in Back To The Future?
I also like to start Saturday with a quick scan of my emails, Facebook and Twitter, before clicking on my Daily Mail app to see what’s going on in the world - all before I’ve even sat up. By mid-afternoon, I felt cut off from the world. It was bizarre not being able to find out what was happening at the push of a button. If something really big HAD occurred - outbreak of nuclear war, world war III, overthrowing of the government - would I have to wait and hear about it on the six o’clock news?
I also missed another important Saturday morning tradition - Facetime with my parents on our iPads while we’re all in the kitchen making breakfast. It’s a great way of getting in some ‘face time’ if we’re not able to meet up that day and I missed it. A quick phone call, made from our landline, wasn’t the same.
After lunch I nipped into town to do some errands (and reassure myself that the outside world was actually still there). At first I quite enjoyed the ‘freedom’ of window-shopping and people-watching in the sunshine, without being answerable to my phone. My enjoyment was short-lived however, when I nipped into M&S and was unable to call Adam to ask some crucial questions. Did we have milk? Did we need any bread? Did he fancy a bottle of wine? It was unsettling not being able to ‘just check.’
When I got home, Adam admitted how frustrating it had been when he realised he needed something picking up from a shop I would surely be passing and had been unable to call to ask me.
The rest of the day passed in much the same way. I wanted to say a quick hello to my best friend, but as I couldn’t text - and didn’t feel ‘just saying hi’ warranted a phone call - I didn’t bother. Adam and I are big picture-takers too and when our tiny kitten Tilly fell in her waterbowl and emerged sodden, both ‘proud parents’ instincively reached for their phones.
But, my world-class whingeing aside, it wasn’t all bad. Without the distraction of technology, our attention was more focused on one another. And without hundreds of Sky channels to occupy a spare hour, I found myself picking up a book for the first time in about a year.
It was an eye-opener. Technology has so many uses and connects us in so many ways that I’m grateful for - Facebook, email, Facetime - but these things also allow us to disconnect to an extent, replacing get-togethers and phone calls with text messages and emails. How well are we really teaching the next generation about learning to communicate and connect with each other, if we’re disconnecting in this way?
In the end, it was tougher than we thought it would be and getting our phones back felt better than it should. It didn’t inspire us to forgo useful technologies, but it did inspire us to create some new rules, like no phones at dinner and digging out the Scrabble board sometimes, rather than always reaching for the remote.
If you try this for yourself and have more luck, maybe figuring out the secret to living without your phone - give me a call, would you?