Dedicated to my old iPhone 7, may I always remember how much faster you were
After just over a week of having no mobile phone, I finally bit the bullet and handed over most of this month’s wage in exchange for a like-new, but not quite new, iPhone 6. Retro. Swallowing my pride as I acknowledged having lost months of travelling photos, notes and all of my contacts because I never got around to backing my phone up, I admitted that it just isn’t possible to survive in 2019 without some kind of device. And here’s why.
The moment the genius in the Apple store told me that my phone was gone, lost to irreparable water damage and a severely smashed screen, I was forced to accept the challenge of not automatically replacing it (largely influenced by my bank balance). Initially, I noticed the positives of not being constantly fixed to that little black screen: not only was I better able to focus when I needed to get some work done, but I also felt less anxiousness about being in contact with people, freed from the obligation to reply almost instantaneously. And yet, somehow, I felt better connected to my friends. In social situations, there was less distraction (at least on my side), and in the awkward silences in any lull in the conversation, when I noticed my friends reaching into their pockets to check their notifications, I was forced to either sit and observe or drive the chat back into action. Sitting on buses and walking around Sydney, I became increasingly aware of just how plugged in we are as a generation – it is rare to see someone in public who is not scrolling, or wearing headphones, or scrolling whilst wearing headphones. My own detachment from this was refreshing, and I busied myself by people-watching, and observing my surroundings, suddenly engaging with my environment and noticing things I had previously ignored. Even at the gym, once I overcame the strangeness of exercising without music, I felt more engaged and ended up leaving sweatier than ever before. However, my optimism quickly depleted.
After all, there are lots of disadvantages to not having a phone, the ultimate one being unable to contact anyone as and when I wished, having to rely on my laptop and being in a WIFI zone for any kind of correspondence. If plans were made, I was the last to know about them, and when I was running late anywhere, I had to depend on my friends hanging around for me and trusting that I was, indeed, on my way without worrying that anything might have happened to me. Heaven forbid I had been involved in any kind of emergency situation, as I had no means of urgent contact, which could have been disastrous. Aside from this, it quickly became clear just how much we rely on our phones in almost every aspect of our lives; I had taken for granted the ability to check my bank account, the weather, google maps, the bus timetable, order an uber, set an alarm – all with the simple touch of a screen that never strayed more than 10 metres from my right hand. Walking around public places, I realised how easily clocks and watches have been phased out, meaning not only that I was constantly late, but that I was forced to talk to people (yes, actual, real life people) in order to ask the time. What amazed me the most about this, was that when I did muster up the courage for some old school, face to face communication with strangers, each and every one of them checked a phone, not a Breitling, not even a Casio, but in most cases an iPhone, with a few devoted android users too. Unable to check my bank balance, or make quick bank transfers, I reverted to carrying a safety net of cash. Paper money. Or plastic I think these days. A vintage concept to most, with one coffee shop even telling me that they no longer accepted cash. As time went on, the drawbacks of not being able to remotely control every single aspect of my life became increasingly apparent, and I became increasingly tired of having to explain what had happened to my phone, when people retorted with horror that they couldn’t live without theirs. So, whilst I can see the benefits of reducing usage, and for the most part enjoyed the challenge of getting by without my phone, will I ever ditch it permanently? Unlikely. This is generation Z, and we’ve grown up in the technological era. Our world is being managed digitally, and we’ve since forgotten how anyone ever survived without the internet. Not only this, but I’m studying in Australia, when all my friends and family live in the UK, and it’s safe to say postal correspondence takes far too long for my liking. I expect my screen time will decrease slightly, and I hope to continue to prove to myself that we needn’t be so entirely dependent on our mobiles. Plus, I spent $7 on an alarm clock, and I fully intend to continue to use it, if only to get my money’s worth. But when everyone else is so reliant on technology, it is hard for those without phones not to be left behind – and I’m still catching up on a week’s worth of Instagram posts and group chat gossip