(That’s only halfway true, but you’re welcome for the earworm.*)
A month ago, my phone disappeared.
Vanished. Poof. I had it out in the back yard. I know I brought it into the house; I just don’t know where in the house it ended up. Calling it wasn’t an option; by the time I realized it was missing, the battery was dead.
Cue the frantic searching. I tore the house apart. My husband, who’s a much better finder than I am, did the same. We retraced my steps (which were very few on that lazy summer day). We checked cupboards, freezers, freshly folded laundry, and garbage cans.
Not a trace.
I was so mad at myself. I wondered whether I’d have remembered to plug it in (or at least have noticed where I put it) if I’d taken my meds that day. I felt ashamed of myself for not being able to manage the simple task of not losing the miraculous tiny pocket computer that had served me well for several years, and I beat myself up pretty hard for being so irresponsible.
I mean… almost all of my friends live in my phone. I LOST MY FRIENDS.
Now, I was due to upgrade my phone a year ago (cue conspiracy theories about the phone company kidnapping my poor iPhone to force the issue). I could have just gone out and done it. But I’m stubborn, and I was convinced that the moment I got a new phone my old one would turn up. I was determined to not give in.
So how did that go?
There were inconveniences for sure. We went on a week-long family trip that involved splitting up for appointments and activities, and we had to do it without “WHERE ARE YOU?” texts. I didn’t have my music or podcasts in the car or on walks. I couldn’t post anything to Instagram (the horror, I know).
But all in all it was really okay.
I checked my email less because it wasn’t in my pocket and realized what a huge waste of time it is to check it at all from my phone. I got help with the break I’d been trying for months to take from Facebook, and I found that I didn’t miss it**. I checked Messenger occasionally from my computer in case people needed to contact me, and I don’t think anyone else really noticed I was gone.
I missed out on a lot of work-related FOMO, that’s for sure, which meant a little less anxiety at a time when it’s been a real struggle. I forgot to take the “real” camera on a day trip and managed to focus on enjoying and remembering the day instead of posting constant photo updates to social media.
Turns out experiences really do happen even if I don’t record and share them. Weird.
No, it wasn’t a blissful vacation or an eye-opening epiphany. I didn’t miraculously gain an increased attention span, and my brain found plenty of other distractions when I didn’t have my phone in hand. I didn’t even get any extra reading done. But slipping the electronic leash for a while helped me realize that I don’t always want to be available or in the loop.
I broke down and upgrade a few days ago. It was the music that pushed me to it, really. The weather will be cool enough to take my dog for long walks again soon (I hope), and I need the motivation that music provides to get me into my running shoes and out the door. And there are times when it’s important for people to be able to reach me even when I’m not at home–my husband, my kids’ schools.
But I’m going to try not to let this phone be the constant companion my last one was. It won’t be my go-to when I’m in need of a quick hit of distraction or the sense of validation that comes from checking Instagram likes. I’m not going to have it in my hands at all when I’m talking to people in person.
…because that might have been my biggest take-away from this experience. When I didn’t have a phone to distract me I noticed how reliant so many of us are on them. We Google minor facts and news items instead of staying focused on the present conversation. Phones are in-hand during restaurant meals. Even lulls in conversation can be an opportunity to check notifications, as though it’s not worth just sitting quietly with friends and family when the grass might be greener somewhere else.
That’s not a criticism. I’ve guilty of it, too. And I want it to stop.
So thanks, old iPhone, for disappearing. Your absence made it clear what I really needed you for and what I absolutely didn’t, even if I thought I did.
And new phone? You’re on notice. I’m the boss. Not you.
(Also, please don’t get lost. I can’t afford to replace you for at least two years.)
*If you don’t now have Katy Perry stuck in your head right now, please tell me how to avoid it.
**I missed being in touch with my reader group, and I think I might have missed an invitation or two. That’s about it.