We know our smartphones make us stupider.
We know they distract us.
Make us crash our cars into each other.
And keep us from having meaningful conversations with other human beings, in particular our kids, our spouses, and our friends. People, presumably, we like and want to have meaningful conversations with.
And yet, we keep using them. We keep buying faster ones, stronger ones, more multi-purpose ones.
We download apps faster than you can say “Shoot me up, Scotty.”
This isn’t news.
Nor is it news that many of us are, at the very least, conflicted about this,
But despite our conflict, we continue to use.
As a recovering control freak — I am pretty addicted to my Waze and my easy access Google, which lets me find out within thirty seconds where the nearest ER is.
We parents like our Angry Birds, so we have something to do while waiting for the doctor. We like our YouTube, so we can have a quiet meal with kids every now and again.
We really, really, really like our Instagram.
Last week, however, the battery in my smartphone died. And due to complications with my warrantee, I have been using a regular old telephone for the last week.
It’s been great.
Weird, disruptive, but great.
I know I’m not the first to notice how much of your life you get back when your smartphone dies, but I can’t help but share my awareness with you.
Without the camera on my smartphone, I just sat and watched my children play for an hour on inflatable jumping castles yesterday.
Without my instagram, I smiled inside and shared my joy with myself only … until I saw my husband later, and had to use my words, and not pictures, to describe how much fun they had.
Without my smartphone, my work day ends when my work day ends, and my work day begins when it begins.
It isn’t one long everlasting day that runs into the next one.
Without my smartphone, taunting me with a flashing light or a clever, nostalgic ring-a-ling-a-ling, my thumbs rested, for the first time in many years. And I listened to a story someone was telling me. I actually listened — to the whole thing — uninterrupted.
Our smartphones are the very physical representations of our very distracted society — a society that runs, forgets, snaps, jumps.
Only when our smartphones disappear — or worse, when tragedy strikes — are we reminded of the choices we have to make each and every second of each and every day.
We must constantly choose where to be.
Are we with our phones? Or are we with our life?
When our phones are around, most of us inevitably choose our phones.
When we don’t, because we have to focus on something or someone else, our typical first responses are irritability or confusion.
WHY ARE YOU BOTHERING ME?
HUH? WHAT DID YOU SAY? SORRY I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING.
This state of irritability or confusion is how we spend our days … our moments …
With our minds constantly stimulated, we forget we have a choice.
We forget that in every moment, we must choose.
Where to be.
Why do we forget? Because usually we don’t choose. We react.
That’s what humans do when they are over-stimulated.
Our minds have been re-trained from choice to reaction.
For the last week, my mind has been getting a work out in under stimulation.
I had to sit in the doctor’s office and look at the walls, and the people.
I had to wave to the guy riding a donkey in the middle of the road, instead of snapping his picture for posterity.
I had to watch my children … just watch them.
Mostly — I loved this week.
I cheered the death of my smartphone secretly, even though I kept bugging the technician for a date of repair.
Because I understand that it can’t be like this.
That I can’t have it both ways.
That, yes, there is a bigger choice I could make that would allow me to be more present more of the time.
But it would require giving up a lot.
In the meantime, I’m grateful for the death of my smartphone. And I’m proud of myself for realizing the gift inside this temporary loss.