They say we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone. But going cold turkey (get it?!) taught me that we don’t know what we already had until our smartphone is gone.
My phone decided to quit on me Sunday night. One minute it was working. The next it lay silent, despite numerous attempts at resuscitation. The poor thing gave all it had. Its time was just up. Being without a phone for going on five days now, however, didn’t give me a greater appreciation for the amazing technology that it is. Rather, I learned some interesting things about myself:
- I noticed myself looking for the notification light on my phone every time I passed it on the counter, as if I hoped something or someone was there waiting for me. I found myself wanting to reach for my phone and check for messages pretty frequently.
- Instead of simply being able to thumb through messages and notifications, I had to sit down and do the work of actually opening my laptop (gasp!). This meant I checked messages less frequently.
- People could still get ahold of me, either via e-mail, Facebook, or by texting my wife.
- I had time to actually start reading a book again.
- I was a bit more present for my family. I actually got down on the floor with my daughter and had some creative play time.
- I noticed a tendency to want to check for messages as soon as I woke up in the morning.
- And I noticed that the thing I missed most about my smartphone was being able to text or call my wife at any time.
I’ve learned that along with a phone comes a compulsion to “check.” Check messages. Check social media. Check e-mail. With all this checking, I think my smartphone reduced how much I check-in on family members. It took that away from me a bit. Here I am, encouraging parents to be good technology examples, and I allowed technology to take away my focus on my family. Just like everyone else, I am influenced by media use. I had kind of forgotten that. In fact, that may be the biggest lesson I learned—when we start to think we’re not influenced by media, that may be the time when we are most susceptible to its effects. That’s why we worry about kids and media, right? Because kids’ lack of knowledge about media effects can make them more vulnerable. But I’ve found this week that this is also true for adults.
I’m still going to use my smartphone—my new one is scheduled to arrive today. But I’m going to try to use it a bit more judiciously. It’s great technology, to be sure. But even for media literate adults, it can be a bit of a distraction from the thing in life that is most important—the people we live with.
So, if you’re up for it, I challenge you to go cold turkey from your phone for even just one day. I’d love to hear what you learn about yourself.