Two weeks ago, my Motorola smartphone I had for almost two years stopped working.
It happened when I decided to take it in next to the bathtub to play music. It was a risky move, but I convinced myself that if it was fine before, then I could do it again.
This time, the screen went completely dead.
It looked like some water splashed on it and steam went inside — not only did sheer panic rush over me, I was anxious about not being able to use a phone at all. I didn’t have any wifi at home either, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to browse the internet or reach anybody until I get a new phone.
And when all of the shops are closed during the corona virus lockdown, I panicked a bit more.
The fact that I would be offline for at least a week was a scary thought.
Here’s how my week went.
My Week Without A Phone
Because I was relying on my phone to wake up in the morning, I had to borrow my flatmate’s Dell computer to set up an alarm so I could wake up on time to go to work. It worked the first time, but the day after, I was late because the alarm didn’t go off.
So I got one of those analog alarm clocks to survive for the next few days.
On my way to work, I realized that I couldn’t listen to podcasts or to my Spotify playlists, and I kept twitching or touching my pockets to then hopelessly realize that my phone wasn’t there.
I couldn’t even look at the time to see if I was late or check the bus timetables.
I couldn’t check any text messages or emails, watch Youtube videos or Netflix, check bank statements, or reply to anything urgent.
I was basically useless without a phone. And dysfunctional.
I got incredibly anxious, and wondered if my friends and family thought I had disappeared or if they were worried about me.
Thankfully, my friends let me use their devices to briefly check my emails and for any important messages. But I didn’t miss out on anything as important as I thought.
Our Dependence On Technology
During the week, it was clear to me how dependent we are on our technology.
We have normalized this dependence as a society, and we would tolerate the fact that people would be completely dysfunctional without their smartphones.
It’s no surprise that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day, yet paradoxically, there are more applications now than ever to curb our social media addiction and compulsive phone use. In the fall of 2018, Apple has even introduced the feature screen time to limit how often we use our phones.
Facebook and Instagram were specifically designed to be addictive, so that people would spend more time on them. Just like a slot machine, scrolling upwards to refresh social media feeds and getting red notifications that tech companies have implemented make it all the more addictive.
Just like a drug, these features light up the reward centers of our brain, giving us a hit of dopamine.
‘We are living in a context where we are continually moving from one stimulus to the next in search of a dopamine experience where we’re rewarded by the next email, retweet or the next thing that comes to our phone’ — Netflix documentary The Minimalists
As Georgetown professor and bestselling author Cal Newport mentions, there are disastrous long-term consequences to our social media and cellphone addiction.
‘The more you use social media, the less happy you are, the more anxious, and the more isolated you feel.’ Cal Newport
When smartphones and social media have become ubiquitous in our society, depression, anxiety, hospitalizations of self-harm incidents have skyrocketed.
It’s really no coincidence.
Nowhere in our human evolution have we had to live with a digital companion. We are biologically not wired for it, which is why there are so many dangerous consequences to using these devices.
It makes us distracted, less focused and less able to concentrate on the things that matter the most.
When we’re constantly bombarded by noise — notifications, likes, friend requests, text messages, emails — it feels as though we don’t have enough time for ourselves, our loved ones, or our ambitions.
Our pocket-sized digital companions are taking every inch of solitude away, which is highly significant since we need time alone to develop as a human being. Being alone with your own thoughts allows you to look inwards and having your own ‘downtime’ is actually a window for professional insight and creativity.
When we’re bored, we have the chance to be more creative and process big ideas.
Being offline for a week was boring, but after a few days (after the panic subsided) I started to feel a lot calmer. I had way more time to myself than I did ever before.
Although these technologies are designed to make us more productive, more research shows that productivity has been stagnant, which is clearly evident in Nixon’s blogpost, ‘ Is the economy suffering from a crisis of attention?’
Of course, a lot of people rely on social media for their careers, to launch businesses and connect with different people within their industry, but it gets dangerous when we lose our autonomy and self-discipline when it comes to using these devices.
This is why we need to be weary of our relationship with technology. Perhaps we need to power down our devices, spend more undistracted quality time with our loved ones and simplifying our lifestyle by having less distractions around us.
You wouldn’t want to have something have more control over you than yourself, would you?
Originally published at https://www.chloelingmason.com on April 18, 2020.