Was your initial response to the title of this post one of ghastly horror? I wouldn’t blame you, as the idea of leaving our beloved phones at home when we go out into the world is something we don’t often consider. What if I need to call someone? What if I get in an accident? What if?
Before we had email, texting, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social/communication network on the phones we could fit in our pocket and use anywhere we wanted, people either A. got ahold of us should we have answered the phone at home or B. left us a message. They didn’t try every number, email address, or online account they had for us just to reach us for whatever reason — we weren’t available. We either missed their call at home and/or arrived to find a voicemail waiting for us. Now we are supposed to be reachable 24/7, whenever someone feels the need to be in touch. Ever have someone you barely know say “Where are you? I know you have your phone with you!” on a voicemail message as if you could somehow not have the ability to take a call at the exact moment someone wishes to speak to you? It doesn’t matter if you are at the grocery store, eating dinner at a restaurant, or playing with your kids at the park; everyone knows you have a cellphone and thinks you should be available to answer it. But what if you didn’t?
And here’s the other thing — ever see people sitting at a table together quietly but only staring at their phones? Ever sat with someone while they texted, emailed, or talked on the phone with someone else for just a tad too long? The constant need for constant updates about everything under the sun (and it’s usually of no importance at all) has created a nation of mute zombies, blindly walking with their head down engrossed in the latest update about…whatever. We used to be able to deal with not seeing the latest news until we got around to it; why the need now?
I am not a tech-luddite. I have an iPhone and a MacBook Pro. I make my living by working all day on the internet. And I understand it’s now become difficult to leave the house without the modern-day adult version of a security blanket, the cellphone. It’s difficult for me to do. But I have been forcing myself to do it when I can think of it, and I am amazed at just how often I reach for my phone in my pocket only to find it’s not there — and I am forced to do something else. Look around. Listen to NPR. Talk to a human being. Pay attention.
When you don’t feel chased down by someone or aren’t busy staring at that little 4.5 inch screen full of Facebook updates, it’s amazing what you can experience. Try it out a few days a week or a few times a month. Leave your phone at home once in a while. It could change your life.