It's so easy these days to get worked up about a piece of metal or plastic called a cell phone. I recently read CNN Tech's article about user complaints on the iPhone 5 and I couldn't help laughing out loud. I can understand how people can get upset about shelling out hundreds of dollars only to get a phone with scratches or with leaking light, but when I got to “the phone's too light,” I just cracked up. As CNN reported, “One of Apple's selling points for the new phone is that it's the lightest smartphone ever. One of the emerging complaints? That it's the lightest smartphone ever.”
That's a facepalm if I've ever seen one. But let me not make a mockery of all you smartphone-toting addicts out there. My cell phone is my security blanket. It's connected to our office's VoIP phone service, plus it's where I Skype with my mom. Needless to say, I feel that I would go crazy if I didn't check it constantly for SMS, voicemail and email.
At the same time, I go crazy whenever I see other people constantly hooked up to their phones. When my sister bought a BlackBerry during the ancient ages when everyone wanted BlackBerry phones, she was perennially on BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which was like a free text messaging heaven for all BlackBerry users. She texted away while we were watching Friends reruns (which were supposed to be our bonding sessions) and even during my mom's birthday dinner. And don't get me started on get-togethers with college friends. I don't think it's that big of an exaggeration to say that at least one person would be checking his or her phone every ten minutes or so.
That said, the night I lost my cell phone was a moment of self-realization. After an epic struggle with the person who had the guts to run off with my bag, I went home despondent. As soon as I reached home, I realized I didn't know what to do. Then I started panicking. How would I stay connected without my phone? Buying a new phone became first priority in my to-do list. This was until the next morning when I just made the rash decision to try living without a cell phone. I'm happy to report that I survived without a phone for three months and no, I am not pulling your leg. Let me share my insights on this self-challenge.
People who want to connect will connect.
It was frustrating at first to lose a means for instant communication. But I also found out that if people wanted to be with you, they would find ways to do so. The people who matter would climb mountains, swim oceans, and maybe even shoot you a message on Facebook if you lost your mobile device. My friends and family called me more often on my landline where we didn't have to worry about limited minutes. And the fact that I did not have a cell phone did not turn them off from asking me out on dates. It works both ways too — I found myself putting more effort into connecting with the most important people in my life.
I valued people's time more and people valued my time more.
I think one of the biggest drawbacks of having mobile phones is that we become more lax with our time. You can simply tell a person you're meeting that you're going to be late, and you can go along on your I'm-a-happy-floating-bubble comfy pace. I know, having a cell phone is not an excuse to be disrespectful of other people's time. Shoot me now, will you? Guilty as charged. But I couldn't help being more laid back then, since I knew I could make instant excuses. Without a cell phone, I found myself making sure that I arrived on the dot. It was a huge lesson in sensitivity and respect. Knowing that I didn't have a phone with me all time also made other people value my time more. They made sure that all the details in our plans were smooth before they set dates with me, and it was rare that they were late for our dates, too. That's something to yay about, isn't it?
It's a relief to be smartphone-free.
It was worrisome at first not to have a handy mobile device with me all the time. But I soon realized that I had all the technology I needed. I had Internet access, a dinosaur-age albeit trusty landline, and email. I learned to enjoy my immediate surroundings again. Without the constant distractions of a mobile phone, I observed people more, enjoyed conversations more, and generally appreciated people I was with more. The biggest bonus was finally getting rid of work during my personal time. It was a pain to boot up my laptop just to check my email, so when working hours ended, it really ended for me. No phone calls, no emails, no social networks, nada. I was as free as a pilgrim.
So why did I turn out to be a hypocrite and get a phone again? I'd still be among the first to admit that a cell phone is a convenience. But now, I don't treat it as my opium. Nobody needs to get overly dependent on any type of technology.