Three weeks ago as my phone lay dying in its own pool of battery loss, I had to make a decision. Do I finally upgrade and join my comrades in the Smartphone lifestyle or do I continue with my Stegosaurs model maintaining an old school rap of reading paper maps and checking email on (gasp) a computer?
Most of my family members have iPhones. They live, breathe and rely on them. From playing Candy Crush to the Pee App (an app that tells you the optimal time to go to the bathroom during movies), their iPhones have become an extension of themselves.
I’ve watched five of them in the same room tapping away furiously on their devices, eyes glued, oblivious to the world around them. It left me thinking, What’s the big deal?
Then I bought my first iPhone: now, I understand. I found apps– specifically an app for three handed Pinochle. (It’s a card game, people, and it’s fun!) I found myself, however, pulling off at rest stops so I could finish a game, and curling up with my phone at night, my eyes glazing over.
And that isn’t good.
I deleted the app.
I found the Maps app. Maps that brilliantly show me where I’m going as I pass along the paved streets of Minnesota. Maps that show me my surroundings; and since I don’t actually need to know where I am, I am no longer completely aware of my surroundings. I just follow the path on the iPhone or the lady’s voice telling me which exit to take. I no longer have to figure it out for myself. My quick decision making skills and my knowledge of the surrounding area is now obsolete. I relay on this little device to tell me how to get there.
But I want to rely on me, my brain. I like maps and I really like to know where I am, trying to figure out how to get to my destination.
I’ve compromised and only use the Maps app for emergencies.
My favorite function, of course, is the camera: so accessible, easy to use and significantly less bulk than my Canon 40D. But who really needs 400 photos from one week of life?!
I realized that my iPhone had, in fact, become an extension of myself. It transitioned my life from being present, human interaction and the knowledge of where I am to someone who was living her life attached to a small device that told her how to get somewhere and kept her from more organic relationships. It had only been three weeks, but I saw the effect and realized that something needed to change.
The key is moderation. You rule it; don’t let it rule you.
Thus, I’ve been training myself in the art of discipline. Like forming any habit, it was a little bit more difficult at first so I came up with some ground rules. Don’t take your phone to dinner. Leave it at home when you go to a friend’s or relatives house. Turn it off at 10 p.m.
As a result, I’ve found that I am more present to others, more present to life in the now, and I actually know where I am as I drive. The attachment was becoming less and less, and I was feeling more present and free.
The other day my niece and I made shrinky dinks. It was a time to be present to her and share in a memory. I would post pictures of our plastic art and of her cute smiling face with her big ocean blue eyes, but I can’t. Because I didn’t take any photos. Because I didn’t have my phone.
And for that, I’m glad, because sometimes – yes, sometimes – the memories are worth a thousand times more than any photo could capture.
How do you manage your phone? How do you stay present to others?