Culture, Letting Go

If your smartphone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?

We know our smartphones make us stupider.

We know they distract us.

Confuse 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.




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.

With whom

With what.

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.

12 thoughts on “If your smartphone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?”

  1. It is interesting that a lot of what we deal with every day is a choice…you are right, nobody really thinks about it that way. My phone still works but I get what you are saying, as this week I’m scared to death because all the camps I signed up for are done and it’s just me and my boy. What to do what to do when we have filled that “screen time” limit for the day and he has to put Minecraft away…be happy in the moment? Be present? Do the hard thing and think of creative things to do for the next 4 weeks? Something other mothers would be so grateful for…. or sign him up for another camp or 2 this summer because my brain is too fried to think of stuff to do every day. The balance of what is ok, and what’s too much is hard for kid and adult!


    1. All the time I struggle with this in parenting. I think kids DO need a lot of downtime (without tv, video games, etc) but I have also found (at least with my kids) that by having all the stimulation normally, they have forgotten how to play. You need ENOUGH down time that they know what to do with themselves when they are in downtime. It’s not fair to say — ok shut the TV off now and go play, if they don’t know what “play” is. Downtime starts with showing them ways they can play alone or without stimulation. I often will sit for a few minutes with my daughter (the 3rd) and play dolls with her. After a few minutes she is good to play by herself for a while.


  2. Sometimes i look back at the life I once lived in Burma. Barely any electricity, crappy internet connection, and of course no smart phones. It wasn’t one of the most brilliant times. I’m sitting there studying with candle light, mosquitoes harrasing me and


  3. Sometimes I look back at the life I once lived in Burma. Barely any electricity, crappy Internet connection, and of course no smart phones. I’m sitting there studying with candlelight, mosquitoes harassing me and the amount of air and noise pollution from the generators on the street was enough to make one crazy. It wasn’t one of the most brilliant times in life I admit. But I look back with a smile, because I survived it. In reality, we don’t need technology to run our lives. We should have days where we learn to live without it.


  4. Yes and yes and yes to EVERYTHING you said. I wrote my final iPhone addiction article for The Forward and it went up today on the Sisterhood blog there about the different strategies I had to use to shave off 50% of the time I spend with the phone. I didn’t even have a goal of getting rid of it completely because it’s just not realistic at this point. We really are a different society now. It’s sad, but it’s how it is and I think it’s important we find ways to manage the little gadgets before they manage us.


    1. Nina. Please post the link to your final Iphone article so we can all enjoy it. Guess what? I was going to add it to the above post but it didn’t really fit. My IPAD broke yesterday. I dropped it and it refused to turn on. So I am without a smartphone or IPAD. Just my work laptop. We are going on vacation in 5 days and I was going to bring the IPAD. Guess I’ll just have to buy a paperback at the airport…..


  5. I can relate! I have not one, but 2 smartphones. One for work, the other personal. But I have learned to put both away at times. To unplug from the world and experience it without the technology. About a year ago, I wrote a post titled “Uplug”. One of the things I said in that post pointed out that:

    All of the gadgets we carry also seem to carry an expectation. People expect us to be reachable. Why, for heaven’s sake, did you not answer my text/call/email/voicemail right away? Are you dissing me? Do you not like me? Did I upset you in some fashion? I needed an answer right then. I was waiting on you and you didn’t reply!! Sound familiar?

    No, i’m not dissing you. I’m enjoying my life, untethered and unplugged. What a time I have when I do that. LOL

    Nice post. 🙂


  6. Oh sometimes I think it would it be great if my iPhone were to break! Then I realize that more realistically, I need to just find a happy medium between being glued to my devices and being completely off the grid…


    1. Sometimes i wish the electric grid would get hit by a solar flare returning us to Little House on the Prairie times and then i remember small pox. And think, progress is good.


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