For ten months, nobody has been able to call me. For ten months, my attention has not been demanded by this small device in my pocket. For ten months, every time I meet a friend, I arrange a time and a place and that is where we meet. For ten months, I have not had something to look at when there is a lull in conversation. For ten months, I have not known what the time is without asking someone else – I don’t wear a watch.
For ten months, I have not had a phone and it has been glorious.
It started when I went to Korea at the end of 2013. I arrived with a borrowed phone, but it didn’t work. Close to midnight, I got out of a taxi in Busan and headed to a payphone to make a call. As chance would have it, I was seen and hugged before I even had the chance to make the call – crazy luck that the girl who was waiting for me happened to be sitting by the window of the one bar outside which I was dropped – I say crazy because Busan is a city of 3.5 million people.
In Korea, I noticed that when people stopped for more than a second or two, they would instinctively pull out their phones, blanking out the world around them – this happened on subways, at traffic lights, even while with their friends.
In the weeks that followed, I started to enjoy the fact that I had ‘my time’ and I had ‘connected time.’ My connected time was when I was on the computer. I could use Facebook, Skype, and Gmail, without feeling that they were consuming my life. As soon as I closed the lid of that computer, that was it. No one could get me unless they were standing in front of me, talking to me as a real person. Turning off your phone and living life in the moment that you find yourself is a wonderful feeling. No longer do you live life behind the lens, nor do you live life in the third person, talking to people who aren’t with you. You just are.
Whenever I needed to make a call, there was always a payphone nearby. I didn’t have to watch the news, I didn’t have to respond to anything when I didn’t feel like it. Of course my family would have preferred for me to be contactable (and I understand that), but I feel that because of not having a phone, I made allocated, extended times for speaking to them on Skype. All in all, it enriched my life.
Now that I am in the UK for Christmas, I have borrowed a phone once more. It is one of the £9.99 phones that you get from Tesco that does everything a phone should do – it calls, it texts, it tells the time, and it has an alarm. In fact it’s more than that because it has a calculator and a little light on the back too. As a teenager I could have never imagined so many functions on one such tiny device.
So try it, just for a day or so and see how you get on – try turning off your phone and spending more time interacting with the people around you and noticing the places you pass through. You don’t have to turn it off forever – phones are useful after all – but it’s super nice not to have one.