Life Without a Smartphone: My Time Outside the Matrix

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Let’s not be too dramatic here. I went a little over a month without a smart phone. But it was a worthwhile experience to really drive home how much I depend on it for certain things, and also, how freeing it is to be digitally disconnected.

I dug out an old flip phone the bf and I kept for emergencies after dropping my smartphone for the last time *sniff*. So I had that, but I was paying for minutes, so I didn’t give out the number like free candy (not that I would just give out any candy I happen to come by). I mainly had it for emergencies, and though it had ‘internet capabilities’, let’s just say it didn’t know what to do with itself if I clicked that little world wide web button.

To put into perspective how dated this phone is, this is the actual image on the button to get to the interwebs.

I took the phone with me on my trip to World Horror Con in Atlanta, GA, which was literally on the other side of the US from home for me. During that time, the few days before the trip, and the weeks after that when I only had that flip phone, these were the things I missed the most about my smartphone:

  • Being able to have the internet at the touch of a screen–not a button (my hands got so cramped texting my roomies during the con on that tiny little keypad). For instance, if I wanted to check something during the conference, like look at details on my website about the manuscript I planned to pitch, I had to go all the way back up to my room and haul out my laptop.
  • Being able to have a camera that was better than most digital cameras. I brought a digital camera along to the con that I didn’t use much.
  • I forget things. A lot. So for one month, I gravely missed my digital calendar and the ability to take notes when I didn’t have any scraps of paper handy (which is surprisingly not that often, though it’s still nice to have all my ideas, lists and notes in one, non-physical place).
  • Feeling connected. In certain areas, my little flip phone deaded out, and I would see texts hours later from my bf back home or my roomies letting me know where they’d be. There was a lot of running around the conference, assuming I’d see them at this panel or that reading, or that we’d just find each other after.

The things I didn’t miss so much:

  • With a smartphone, one is infinitely more distracted from day-to-day life. I feel like I experienced things more fully without one. For instance, travel to the conference was my first time on a plane. Every time before take off or when we landed, people were pulling their phones out, turning airplane mode off, checking what they missed, and immediately reconnecting themselves with the technological world. Without that distraction, I was able to absorb more of the first-time experience, enjoy my surroundings, smile at the child throwing the fit rather than groan, and talk to my fellow passengers (those that were willing to of course) rather than being buried in my phone. Also, because I wasn’t distracted by my phone, I got a great head start on one of my freebie books from the conference, Within These Walls.
  • During the conference, not having my phone kept me from constantly checking and updating social media. I was experiencing rather than spending lost minutes and hours sifting through Twitter and Facebook feeds. They are serious time-suckers unless you plan to only allot yourself so much time for surfing. And one thing I hate doing is wasting time. Especially when it’s against my will. Funny cat videos and celebrity gossip be damned!
  • This one directly opposes my last reason for missing my phone, but I liked not feeling connected sometimes. Before and after the conference, when I would just be sitting around at home, usually trying to talk myself into writing, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders without the threat of my phone ringing with a call or text. It sounds horrible, like I don’t want to talk to my family or friends, but just as much as I can be an extrovert, I am also a huge introvert. I use my time off work to recharge and do my second job, which is writing. So unless I’ve planned to speak with or see someone, I sometimes feel caught off guard or exposed when anyone breaks through.

This experience showed me that it’s easy to become dependent on technology, specifically smartphones, and that sometimes, a brief reprieve is exactly what we need to recharge our minds and focus. Has there ever been a time you found yourself bereft of smartphone technology or access to a particular app (for instance, my bf cut Facebook out of his life and was much happier for it)? Were you miserable or did it relieve a little tension in your shoulders?

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8 Responses to Life Without a Smartphone: My Time Outside the Matrix

  1. Yeah, I have a love/hate relationship with my smartphone. I resisted getting one a lot longer than most people I know, but eventually I caved. The things I love: maps and directions while I’m already out, finding nearby stores or restaurants, being able to tweet and stuff at conferences or on vacation without having to bring my laptop, and always having a decent camera with me, which I predominantly use to capture kitty shenanigans. 🙂 But I also do feel more addicted to online feedback, which is why I resisted getting a smartphone so long to begin with. If an email comes through, it’s really hard for me not to stop and read it right then and there. And I *hate* that. I don’t want to be constantly connected, but my willpower is only so strong. So yeah: love/hate. I feel you on this one.

  2. I too resisted getting one for the longest time, Annie. I had an old fogie stance on it: It makes calls, what the hell else do you need it for? But woah. Technology. I love all those same things too though. I don’t know what I would have done if I had been driving long before the advent of smartphones, because I am so directionally challenged, so being able to look a restaurant up at a moment’s notice is awesome. Love/hate indeed.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I actually have a blog post about distractions in the works (mostly in the works in my head at this point) and everything you mention here is relevant. I got my first smart phone in 2012, so I was a late convert too, but of course I’m pretty addicted now. I’m proud of myself whenever I truly put it away for any length of time (like the weekend last fall when we went camping– I didn’t even snap a single photo). But it comes in awfully handy at other times, especially for safety reasons. As with most things, I believe in moderation, but finding that healthy middle ground isn’t always easy.

    • I LOVED camping recently for that very reason! You get no service so there is literally NO point in having it out. It’s great! It’s freedom. And I do agree with you about safety reasons. I definitely feel uncomfortable without it in my purse, because you start thinking of worst-case scenarios, and heaven forbid you ever need a payphone if you ever forget your phone at home: there aren’t any anymore! Thanks, Carie! Can’t wait to read your post.

  4. D.G.Kaye says:

    I’ve been hearing of a lot of writers lately, taking a digital break. I think it’s a good break, but sorry for the loss of your great phone.:)

  5. Believe it or not, I’m actually still the proud owner of a flip phone, and it’s the only phone I use. I love it, though I know it makes me a dinosaur in this day and age; I like the ability to be separated from technology, the lack of distraction, and so on.

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