I left my phone on a shuttle bus in Denver, Colorado, after a conference, and I didn’t get it back for a full week. I spent eight days without the constant reassurance of my phone, and it was—
Let me cut in: this is not the essay you think it is.
You’re expecting an essay about how I was set adrift, disconnected from my device, only to realize that we are better humans when we set our phones aside and focus on face-to-face relationships and the physical world around us. Disconnecting to reconnect, so to speak.
This is not that essay.
I’ll be the first to admit that I spend too much time on my phone. I can’t stand to see the little red flags next to my Gmail inbox, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress. They demand my attention more than they ought. I can’t stand to be further than a tap away from some of my closest friends and family. I can’t stand the idea of missing out on the next great meme or funny comment or news story.
And I do take time away from my phone, from time to time. We go camping out of cell range, and this is incredibly refreshing. We go on road trips where the phone is purely for navigation and the occasional photo. I don’t pull my phone out at dinner or on dates with my wife or when I’m at a kid’s school event. I try to ignore it in the evenings, with varying degrees of success.
The thing is, phone breaks are fantastic—when you plan for it. You let people know you won’t be reachable. You make all your calls and send all your emails before you unplug. You schedule out your blog posts and tweets. You can decide to not care about missing the Monday Meme thread or constant updates on your coworker’s wedding planning. And you can relax, knowing that there isn’t anything hovering over your head.
I spent last week decidedly not relaxed.
First of all, it’s nearly impossible to make arrangements for the return of your phone without, well, a phone. (Many thanks to the friends who played go-between for days while I worked it out with the driver of the bus.) I had appointments to make, kids to keep tabs on. I could only communicate with my wife via WiFi, which meant I barely left the house. Aside: it’s astounding how much coordination managing a family requires. Even our grocery list is on a shared app.
I mean, I wasn’t entirely cut off. I did have my computer, so at least I could email. I’m aware that I am privileged enough to have options.
But here’s the thing: I like my phone. I like having my friends in my pocket. I like knowing that I can text pictures of my cats to everyone I know whenever I want, and that I can check in on someone halfway across the world from the grocery store. I don’t see constant connection as a negative; I see it as an opportunity and, yes, a privilege.
And so, did I pay the bus driver a stupid amount of money to send my phone back with insurance and Express Shipping? I sure did, and it was totally worth it.