One fateful day in the past, while walking through the open-air mall in Boulder, I was accosted by a hippie who had spent the last decade bathing daily in patchouli oil. He exclaimed that the only way to get back in touch with our humanity was to openly reject our death-grip reliance on technology. I shrugged my shoulders and floated him a couple bucks and hopefully that got him closer to getting that eighth bag.
But he did have a decently valid point. We rely so much every single day on our smartphones to be our electronic crutches for every activity we partake in. I’m just as guilty as everyone else is. I use it to stay in constant contact with everyone, navigate the same roads I’ve driven for decades, counted the calories burned every day, and I depend on to it to instantly entertain me at any given minute of down time. This last weekend during the Divisional Championship
drinking football games, I made the mistake of plugging my phone into a charger that was placed too close to the proximity of rampaging children and at some point during the night, my phone became a springboard used for Olympic gymnastic training. When I tried to find it after the final play of the game, it was sprawled on the floor and the screen had been completely pulled away from the board. While the phone still “functioned”, it only displayed a black screen. Even if I had flawless muscle memory, there was no way I was going to be able to use it to make phone calls without accidentally sending even more glitter and dildos to the militia idiots in Oregon.
Being that this incident happened on a Sunday evening, and with a holiday on Monday, there was little chance on getting a repair or replacement without a little down time. So I took a deep breath and decided to take that hippie guy’s advice and just go a single day without my selfie-ready security blanket. What I discovered is that over the course of 24 hours of being smartphone-free, you really get to notice how dependent you really are on it.
Your Alarm Game is Gone
If you are anything like me, you took that blocky digital clock with the searing giant red numbers and donated it to Goodwill seven years ago, preferring to use your phone as an alarm. Even though I really love sliding the snooze button over and over for 45 minutes, listening to the Wood Man stage from Mega Man ten times every morning is one of those ideas that really only sounds good in theory.
Without your trusty phone to wake you up every five minutes all morning, (and automatically adjusting for anomalies like Daylight Savings Time) you wake up extra grumpy and in the throes of a special kind of paranoid because you have absolutely no idea what the hell time it is. Are you late? Are you early? Is it 2 in the morning? Nobody knows. You have to creep upstairs to look at the time on the microwave, which will undoubtedly read out “0:43” because somebody left the timer paused when they decided waiting for that burrito to reach the recommended serving temperature was overrated.
And this battle carries throughout the day, because…
You Wander Through the Avenues of Time
Once upon a time, the human species aligned their activities to coincide with the position of the sun in the sky. I can’t rely on that old method, I have full days where I don’t even get to see the sun at all, and relying on a satellite-fed clock is a requirement. You have no idea how often you check your phone over the course of a day to figure out time it is. I check it at least three times on my drive to work to make sure that I’m on schedule. This morning, I left at 6:05 am and as I got in my car I realized I was absolutely risking being late due to my inability to monitor the current time in relation to the distance traveled.
After getting to work, it did not get any easier either. Time moved fast. Time moved slow. Time even moved backwards after I misread a short arm for a long one on an analog clock. It was impossible to plan anything all day, and if I had anywhere important to be, I knew that automatically I was going to miss it anyways. I could have rectified this easily with a wristwatch, but unless that wristwatch has a sweet built-in calculator on it, I’ll pass on that shit.
The Phantom Vibrator Harrasses You All Day
I always check my pockets for all the important things, like wallet, change, keys and phone every time I leave the house or get out of my car ($200 locksmith fees will make this a habit reeeal quick). It felt really weird to walk out the door without it. You will notice repeatedly during the day that that strangely warm half pound of metal, plastic, glass and lithium ion is suddenly missing and your heart will drop, and a single bead of sweat will quickly form on your forehead. Then you take a deep breath and remember your stupid phone was broken and left at home.
You will feel the side of your leg vibrate in a familiar frequency pattern that happens when you get text message notifications. You will recognize the same familiar buzz that assures you that one of your friends posted yet another sweet cat picture on your Facebook wall.
No matter how many times you remind yourself that you are going the whole day without Tom Selleck (that’s what I named my device) you still will feel it trying to communicate spiritually with your outer thigh all day. It’s like getting texts from your phone reminding you that you dun goofed. If you can manage to stop fidgeting with your hands, pacing uncontrollably and looking for a new activity to keep you occupied, then suddenly..
You Suddenly Notice Your Surroundings
Wow. There’s a lot of crap going on in the physical real world outside the 5 inch rectangular box you keep in front of your face all day. I noticed all kinds of new details about my surroundings today. The sunrise was a deep purple and was reflecting this warm light onto the clouds and mountains to the west was pleasantly spectacular. I made a lot more eye contact with others and was more engaged with co-workers who suddenly materialized from thin air at my job. Who the hell are these guys anyways?
When I left work to go hunt down a new phone (repairs were half the cost of a phone that was new) I got to wait my turn in line at a busy cellular store. Full of people! As I peered around the place, I got to see my first real-life crack head. It was surreal. I discovered that this city is populated by actual human beings instead of faceless daily annoyances and crash test dummies. But I was one step closer to alleviating my issues, because..
Yes, You Have Withdrawal Symptoms
I’m no scientist by any stretch, but I guarantee that at least a small amount of dopamine is released in your brain whenever you put the universe on hold to entertain yourself with your phone. I love getting news updates from every morning and that always gives me a sense of continued existence. Playing my totally rigged slot machines and quiz games keeps my gambling issues sated and my mind sharp. It’s a carefully timed daily routine that really does not like to be fucked with.
One hour into work, I got an intense headache that could not be quelled with either ibuprofen or caffeine. It would not go away no matter what I tried. I know I drank myself a little silly the day before, but my dumb ass was not hungover. A hangover headache is different and has its own unique criteria. That kind of headache feels like your brain bruising from being bounced around your skull. This pain was mean. It permeated like a helmet, squeezing tightly like a belt around my brain, putting immense pressure behind my eyeballs.
I also extremely irritated with anyone I came into contact with. If I had any angle of insult on someone, I would happily exploit it to the fullest. I made sure everyone that made the mistake of crossing my path knew that they were either a giant bag of dicks or were a failed Sandwich Artist. I was not nice to anyone. For no real reason other than I had no idea what time it was, or that I was missing some great milestone event on social media, or missing out on playing shitty slot machine games. It’s a vicious circle.
Even though I was cognizant of my transformation into Mr. Hyde simply because I was not crushing any motherfuckin’ candy, I still ended up getting a new phone by the end of the day. Within an hour I had the whole thing running smooth and completely customized. Suddenly all of these negatives I had been feeling all day began to fade away as I basked in the glory of my shiny new electronic pacifier. But if I was going to take anything away from this experience, it would be that moderation is something we should all try to strive for. We walk from point A to point B staring at our phones. We get in our cars to drive from point A to point B, staring at our phones and mostly ignoring the oncoming road. At work, we take any opportunity to play on our phone while pretending to work. Sucking your phone’s dick constantly is no way to go through life, son.
Throw a little reality in there.