The smartphone revolution happened in the blink of an eye. It took quite a few centuries for mobile phones to be invented, but over the course of a mere ten years, all basic, big and solid models of phones were upgraded into indispensable ‘Black Mirrors’ that can do pretty much anything you want.
The world behind our small, black screens demands our attention. The moment we have nothing to do, we reach for our phones to stop ourselves from feeling bored, insecure or afraid. We live two lives, one in reality and one in a digital world. We are always online, while at the same time having to meet a lot of obligations in the real world.
It was getting me down.
I’d had it with this double life. I decided to go off line. I hid my iPhone in a deep drawer, and from the depths of the same drawer I dug up my first ever mobile phone, a ten-year-old Samsung without Internet access, on which the most exciting addition was ‘Paris Hilton’s Diamond Quest’, a Barbie-esque Bejeweled. Goodbye WhatsApp, goodbye Facebook, goodbye Instagram. Goodbye old friends who had embraced me in the cloud’s safe arms.
The first few days were very hard. I constantly felt like I was missing out on things, like I had been barred from a different reality. I found myself compulsively reaching for the pocket of my trousers, only to realise again and again that it only held an old Samsung phone. If I wanted to get hold of someone, I had to make an actual call or battle with T9 (the system allowing people to send text messages using just nine keys).
In addition, my repressed insecurities and fears resurfaced. My social anxiety was tested because I was forced to contact people face to face, and my fear of being lonely was given free rein. Where I was normally able to ignore such insecurities by losing myself in my smartphone, I now had no choice but to face them. These days, when I’m lying in my bed alone, I am genuinely alone. However, experiencing this loneliness has made me more appreciative of my real-life contacts. And now that I am no longer constantly distracted by my smartphone, I finally have the time to deal with my pent-up emotions.
But even if my digital abstinence has a lot of benefits, I am sometimes hampered in my day-to-day activities. “Was your covered wagon late today?” a member of the editorial board casually inquired this morning when I showed up late for work. Unfortunately, my real excuse was hardly any better. “My alarm clock didn’t go off. I still haven’t figured out how it works…”