Feature: Seven Days And Seven Nights – A Week Without My Smartphone
When the Ramp Editors suggested the idea of living an entire week without a smartphone, I didn’t give it much thought.
I banged the table for extra sincerity. Drinks had been consumed and I so desperately wanted to be loved. How hard could it be, really?
Oh Past Me. So naïve, you are.
Every challenge needs an established set of rules. Firstly, the challenge was to live without a smartphone for a week. I could still text and make phone calls because, in theory, I could text and phone with an ordinary mobile. If I had one. Also, as my smartphone is not my only access to the internet, I could still access it in work and at home via my laptop. This was for the best – long term internet deprivation would surely cause my mind to fracture, and result in my ending up on the news.
You may not consider this to be a particularly difficult challenge. Communication with the outside world AND internet access? ’tis but a piece of piss.
Well Reader, consider how often you use your smartphone during an average day and how often it strays from your hand, your pocket or your general line of sight? Consider how accustomed you have become to having the world at your fingertips 24/7. You, like me, probably sleep with it beside your bed at night…
Yeah, there was the challenge.
The night before, I dug out an alarm clock, a watch, and a notebook and pen. These would be the tools to see me through the week. I set the alarm and sent the following tweets to represent the proverbial starting line.
9:30 I have slept in. I check my alarm clock and realize I didn’t set it properly. I am shockingly late for work and must run for the bus. Having left my iPhone at home to resist temptation, I have no method of contacting my boss about why I’m not sitting at my desk wearing my usual ‘I wish I was dead’ face.
9:50 The bus stop. Someone has ripped the timetable from the post and I have no idea when the bus is going to arrive.
10:00 I am genuinely at a loss to remember how I survived bus stops before I gave in to peer pressure and got a smartphone. These last ten minutes have been amongst the longest of my life. People are passing by, looking at me silently stare straight ahead with an emptiness in my eyes they cannot fathom.
10:15 The bus arrives. I spend the time on said bus looking miserably out the window wondering what kind of ball chewing I’m going to receive.
11:10 I decide to not tell my boss why I have purposely left my iPhone at home because one doesn’t need one’s employer knowing that one is willing to carry over drunken challenges from the weekend. I am told to try to use a payphone next time so they know I haven’t tripped and fallen into a ravine or been eaten by badgers during the night. Given that everyone and their granny has a mobile now, I wonder if payphones still exist. This passes a few minutes and I make a mental note to think about payphones again next time I’m at a bus stop.
11:20 – 17:00 INTERNET. PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS INTERNET
17:30 This bus timetable clearly hasn’t been updated in years. I will be standing here until I am but a scorched mark upon the earth.
17:32 I think about payphones and realise that since mobiles have eroded my ability to remember telephone numbers, if I found a phone box, I wouldn’t be able to call anyone anyway.
17:33 I AM SO BORED.
17:45 I make another mental note to bring a book tomorrow. It didn’t occur to me how much time I have in between ‘using my smartphone’ and ‘doing something where I cannot physically use my smartphone’. I think of the marvellous possibility of the week and what I can achieve without an attention-seeking blinking tablet in my hands. I could paint something. Think of the writing I could do! I could finally make a sizeable dent in that pile of books I’ve yet to read! Yes, t’would be a week of opportunity.
17:46 I WANT MY PHOOONE. Something could be happening on Twitter, something exciting and by the time I get home all the fuss will have passed and anything I say will be old news. This is horrible.
18:01 The bus is eerily quiet. It occurs to me that I am the only disconnected human being on this bus. Everyone else is locked to a screen or a device, cutting them off from the outside world. The weather is melancholic but beautiful and they don’t even look up to appreciate it.
18:02 Lucky bastards.
18:30-22:00 INTERNET. PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS INTERNET.
22:10 I find my phone and hold it to my cheek. Only six days to go, my beloved. Only six days to go.
8:20 I have slept in. Again.
8:30 Against all my better judgment, I take my phone with me. I can’t risk getting into a situation where I can’t contact someone in an emergency. Yes, an ‘emergency’. You tell yourself that, Laura. You utter, utter failure.
8:45 I text back some friends. It feels nice to use the little chap. I’m not cheating unless I launch an app or any other unique-to-a-smartphone novelty but the temptation is great. Apps. Oh how much you want them when you can’t have them and when you can have them you don’t want to use them because Temple Run is a stupid game anyway.
8:46 I really, really, really want to play Temple Run.
9:00-16:50 INTERNET. SWEET GIFT FROM THE GODS. INTERNET!
17:40 I have forgotten the book I made a mental note to remember yesterday. Is that ironic? I genuinely can’t remember. Over the years, old knowledge has been pushed out of my brain to make way for necessary skills like ‘thumb swiping’ and ‘How to connect my Apple products to my worn, wire-exposing cable I’m too cheap to replace, without being electrocuted’. I don’t need to store knowledge in my brain anyway. That’s what Safari is for on my phone. It’s my source of knowledge. I think about ‘irony’ and that passes the time for a minute. I should have made a mental note to write it down in the notebook I also made a mental note to remember but forgot. My mental notes are useless. If I had my phone, I would have used my Moleskin app at the time and I wouldn’t be in this mess. Moleskin apps, when you think about it, are stupid. I have a Moleskin notebook. I wouldn’t be a shameless hipster without it. I’d my notes written in the time it takes to launch the app, get the right font size, type out the note and then re-type the note because my fingers are hilariously ineffective at texting and too fat not to take several unwanted characters with them each time.
17:41 God, writing in a notebook makes me look so arty. This feels brilliant. Ha! A stranger is looking at me. They probably assume I’m furiously scribbling the next great novel of my generation. Little to they know I’m drawing a rebellious pig on a skateboard.
17:45 Apparently, there is a new Frankie and Benny’s opening in a street somewhere in Belfast. I find this out from a billboard. Most of my information these days comes from my Twitter app so this is refreshing. It’s nice to decide when I want to see advertising rather than being bombarded by, and subsequently having to wade through, flashing, desperately needy pop-ups. I don’t know the street the new restaurant is on. I go to look it up and then curse silently to myself.
17:47 I ask the person sitting next to me where in Belfast I would find the ‘Hillsborough Road’. They tell me it’s in Lisburn; a completely different town. Well that made me look stupid. Fuck this ‘asking for directions from strangers’ bollocks. It only causes embarrassment. Without my Google Map app to stop me being lost and confused, I must remain lost and confused.
17:55 I am making an old woman feel uncomfortable because I have been staring blankly at her from my seat on the bus and didn’t notice. If I had my iPhone, I’d be so distracted I wouldn’t even know I was on a bus.
19:30 There is a light on in my bag. My iPhone has knocked against something inside and an App has popped up. I squint with one eye and don’t look out of the other. It’s… it’s Angry Birds. Oh. My. God. I feel my fingers reach down to pick up the phone to play but I resist. Barely. The temptation is too great. Tomorrow, the phone has to stay at home.
8:30 Slept in. Again. It seems that I have no idea how to use an alarm clock. The aforementioned alarm clock gets thrown against the wall.
10:00-16.50 Mercifully I am so busy drowning in spreadsheets I have no time to think about smartphones.
16:55 There is smoke on the horizon. A fire. A big fire indeed. There are helicopters circling the blaze. Helicopters are common in Belfast because we’re always up to something but this was different. There were many helicopters. Something is happening. Something that requires the emergency services and I have absolutely no way of finding out what. I am very unsettled without my smartphone nearby. Being unable to use my smartphone is like having an itch I just can’t scratch. It’s like permanently walking around having forgotten to put on underwear. It’s disconcerting just being unable to hold it. I’m always holding it, like an extension of myself, often gazing down at it making sure it hasn’t been snatched from my grip by pixies.
17:50 I watch the news on TV to find out about the blaze. The fire was from rioting. The usual. Watching the news on TV is frustrating. I wonder what I did before I could receive only the information I was interested in. With my smartphone I’ve the ability to filter my news which makes me realise just how little I subject myself to bad news, subconsciously protecting myself from the horrors of the world. This unfiltered news is very depressing. Everything is terrible, everyone is sad, everything is slowly killing us especially the stuff we love the most. I want to lie down, in the dark and quietly wait to die.
18:00 Mmm my dinner is delicious. I want to Instagram it to remember it FOREVER (!!!) but I cannot. Part of my soul breaks. Why the hell would I want a photograph of my dinner anyway? What a fucking pointless thing to take a picture of. ‘Gather round, children, and I’ll show you a photo of a bloody good steak I had one time that I artificially aged for artistic purposes’.
18:30-22:00 I sit down to properly catch up on some Social Networking via THE INTERNET, PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS INTERNET, and discover I haven’t really missed much. You assume that by being disconnected you are missing everything – scandal, weddings, photos, controversial statements, a good debate – but nothing has really happened. When you dedicate time to social networking in one chunk rather than digesting it slowly in tidbits throughout the average day, there isn’t really a lot of substance. Facebook is a landscape full of faces of people I barely know littering my timeline with photos of their babies and Twitter, whilst great in slices, is just a long block of nothing blurring into one. Emails are also harder to answer in a block and I find myself closing the laptop and wondering what is happening outside.
23:00 I smile knowing that I have the rest of the week off. No need to set an alarm. No need to fret about missing out because I’d have The Internet handy at home. Yes. This would be an easy challenge after all.
I sleep for 19 hours straight.
Apparently I’ve become reliant on electronic bleeping to wake me up. I wonder how on earth it was possible for me to sleep 19 straight hours without someone… hold the phone. Not one person woke me. In fact, for 19 hours I had been locked in my room lying completely undisturbed. I come downstairs and demand to know why the hell no one came to check I hadn’t died.
Reader, they didn’t even notice I was in the house.
There was a VERY sad diary entry that night, I can tell you, Reader.
I decide to tweet about how no one loves me when, to my horror, I discover that there is no Internet connection in my house. At all.
HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD
Trying not to hyperventilate, I reason with myself that since, thanks to my undiagnosed sleep disorder, I had slept away most of the day I didn’t have long to go until Friday. The Internet would surely be back on by Friday and Friday would be one day closer to Sunday and the Return of the
Jedi King Mack iPhone. Be strong, Laura. Be strong. Eat those biscuits there. Be strong.
The rest of the evening is spent watching a film about a woman with cancer. It did not end well.
THERE IS STILL NO INTERNET.
I’m no doubt missing out on some brilliant cat videos. A meme could be created today and by the time someone shows me it, I would be unable to smugly say ‘Ahh, I’ve seen that before’. When our internet went down before, I could at least rely on my smartphone to keep me connected.
I am growing weary. My watch has stopped and I can barely muster the enthusiasm to ask someone the time each time I need to record when I would have used my smartphone.
Today I looked up cinema times in the newspaper - a newspaper that I actually had to leave the house to buy - like some sort of medieval person. I am concerned that without my Reminder app, I am forgetting something. I do not remember what it is I was supposed to remember. I still don’t. Killing time begins to cause me actual pain so I decide to watch TV I have recorded. I want to tweet about what I’m watching and let out a ‘BAAAH’ when I can’t.
I try to motivate myself to do the things I thought I’d do with all this extra time but instead I spend it scowling at my smartphone across the room. Perhaps if I get angry at it, it will make this process easier. In truth, I AM angry at it. I’m angry that I so happily let it possess me and swallow up so much of my time – productivity is rendered virtually impossible. Conversations are half arsed. Dinners are spent with one eye on my boyfriend and another on my smartphone hiding behind the salt. It’s the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I see at night.
Damn my smartphone, that beautiful, seductive bastard. It doesn’t love me but it’s so needy. It has made me needy – needy for constant, often useless information, all the time.
I decide to get out of the house and go for a walk. Strolling down the road, I see a dog wearing sunglasses and can’t take a picture. This is the hardest part of the week to date.
After arriving at the cusp of a nervous breakdown, I start to come around.
I read a book.
I make rice krispie buns and manage to escape without 3rd degree burns… this time.
I realize that I don’t need a weather app to find out what the weather is like. I can just look out the window. This is a revelation. I remain curious as to what the weather is like in Tokyo though.
I attempt to work out how much discount I’ll get in the shop using a notepad and pen. This is the first maths I’ve done without a calculator since I was 14. Staff eye me suspiciously not just because I’m jotting things down into a notebook but because my ‘thinking face’ looks quite similar to the expression of someone trying to shit out a donkey.
I need to remember a date. I discover a calendar I didn’t know I had that I probably bought during one of my many unnecessary stationery binges. Scribbling my date into the appropriate slot, I know deep inside that once I get my iPhone back, I’ll never look at this calendar again.
I want to say that I didn’t miss my iPhone. I do. I want to end this with a huge you-don’t-need-your-smartphone-go-and-hug-a-stranger revelation, but I can’t. I missed it a lot. By the time I reconnected my electronic umbilical cord, I was making noises of satisfaction that could be considered sexual and this concerned me. Whilst I whispered, I love you, Precious. I shall never leave you again, I knew that things had to change.
Since that week, I’ve genuinely noticed a decline in my smart-phone use. It was only until I went without it did I realise just how much time it was taking up and dammit, I just don’t like dedicating that much of my life to a phone I’ll no doubt resent being seen with in a few months when the latest model comes along.