MMM#3: Can you be phone-free?

If you’ve read my most recent posts, you will have noticed that I’ve been thinking a lot about technology and how it affects our lives. The most prominent piece of technology that many people possess is the mobile phone as it is either close by or on our person whether we are inside or outside our homes. It might even be in your pocket or within eyeshot as you read this.

The advantages to this are obviously the conveniences that a phone can provide. If you are in some kind of trouble, or lost, or need to be reached for whatever reason you can just call someone or somebody can call you. With a smart phone, you can look on the internet if you need to find something, learn about something or if you need to call somebody.

On the other hand, the disadvantages of always having a mobile phone at hand include being over-reliant on them and being consumed and distracted by their abundant features. This is particularly true with smart phones as access to the internet and apps are incredibly affective at drawing our attention. I was once so fixated on something that I was looking at on my phone that I didn’t realise someone was trying to talk to me. Although they were more amused than annoyed, I didn’t like the fact that I was so distracted and not focussed on my surroundings. Almost everybody looks stupid when they’re looking down and staring at a screen!

I’ve heard some people bemoaning the fact that they can always be reached and the lack of privacy that always having a phone at hand can bring with it. It doesn’t surprise me that some people have opted to have a so-called ‘dumb phone’ – i.e. a more traditional mobile phone that lacks the many entrancing features of a smart phone – as a way to avoid some of the downsides of new phones.

At the place I work, I often see everyone else staring at their phone screens during their breaks possibly looking at the news, websites or just going through their messages. There’s nothing wrong with doing this in moderation but I do wonder if it is detrimental if it’s done all the time.

Like I wrote in my other post about not worshipping comfort, being dependent on our phones
means that we can struggle to function without them. Always having your phone with you is another form of comfort which can inhibit your independence. To try and lessen my own dependence on my phone, I’ve started to be ‘phone-free’ by leaving it in my coat or locker on my breaks at work just to be away from it for half an hour or an hour. This is also the furthest distance I can get from it. It means I can at least attempt to find other ways to occupy my time and be ‘off-grid’ even just for a little bit.

The point isn’t to renounce phones entirely but just to manage how much time you spend on it. What initially put me off leaving my phone where I couldn’t immediately reach it was the risk of getting a missed call. I remember going out one time without taking my phone with me and then coming back to find a number of missed calls from my parents who were worried because I wasn’t answering their calls! I had only been out for a brief period but after that I took my phone everywhere with me. However, if people know your work times, I think you can afford to be phone-free for a little bit without much trouble.

There’s no denying that smart phones are an amazing technological achievement but we should appreciate the benefits and drawbacks of them more than we do. As U2 might have sung, I can’t live with or without my phone but I can least try to. I suggest you do as well.

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