I unwittingly put myself through a study in social behavior a few weeks ago. I lost my cell phone and, completely against my will, launched myself into an “unplugged” experiment.
Little did I know that the beautiful wedding of close friends at the top of Keystone Resort would end in me being a lab rat. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was a sugar rush from the cake, maybe it was the intoxicating music played by the DJ, who knows. But I set my phone down on a random table to hit the dance floor and shake my groove thing, and that’s all she wrote.
By the time I realized the phone was missing, it was nowhere to be found. I got on the gondola at the end of the evening sure it would turn up as the staff cleaned and one of my friends would get a call from the resort the next day. No call came. For days. I was finally reconnected, but it was three days later. It felt like an eternity.
I realized several things during this imposed exile from civilized society. The first is that my phone is my timepiece. I found myself wondering aimlessly looking for the time. It made me pause and wonder when I stopped wearing a watch.
Second, I recognized the importance of keeping one’s technological tools up to date, otherwise fabulous inventions like Find My iPhone don’t work for you as intended. We tried from Keystone to use this electronic Marco Polo technique to send a message to the finder of my phone to reach out to me. Nothing. The phone was offline.
Two days after my phone vanished, I decided it was time to dig out my old 4S with the cracked screen and charge her up to replace my sleek, but missing, newer version. As soon the battery registered a charge, it lit up with noisy pings and flashing screen imploring me to email myself with its location. Oh, look. I found my iPhone. Sigh.
Third, I discovered that I have an unhealthy dependency on my phone. I didn’t realize how many times during the course of a normal day I look at the screen to see what is going on somewhere besides where I am. When did I become a slave to my phone?
The smartphone has morphed me into something completely different than I was even five years ago. I don’t just use it to make phone calls. In fact, I spend less time talking and more time communicating in other ways on my phone. I text. I email from one of four accounts. I instant message.
And it’s replaced so many other things in my life. It’s my watch, my calendar, my camera, my photo album, my music player, my GPS, my note on a piece of scrap paper, my dictionary, my alarm clock, my boarding pass. I can check my bank balance, program my DVR, search for a recipe, make a dinner reservation, check Facebook, translate an Italian phrase, shop at Nordstrom and read a book all through the magic of apps, wherever I happen to be. And I can Google anything, anytime, anywhere.
And this is why I felt utterly helpless without it. I lost so much more than just a phone.
On my first full day of phonelessness, I watched several episodes of “CBS Sunday Morning” that were stacked up on my DVR and ironically there was a story about this very topic. It referenced a study that asked college students to unplug from technology for 24 hours and report back on the experience. Seventy percent dropped out. They couldn’t make it one day without being plugged in. Those who did reported feeling anxiety, depression, loneliness, boredom, emotionally detached and strung out as if actually going through withdrawal from a physically addiction. I could relate completely.
Once my beloved iEverything was back in my possession, I reflected on the study and thought about how much it was imposing itself on my life. I became conscious of how often I looked at the shiny little screen and where I was when I clicked it on. Do I really need to fill every pause in life’s action with input from outside? Or should I take a break from being inundated with information, making room for observation, introspection, quiet and real person-to-person exchanges?
Our lives move so quickly. I am trying to learn a lesson from being an unintentional guinea pig and slow mine down a little. Trying, being the operative word. Habits are hard to break, so don’t judge me if you see me out and about and my eyes are on the screen. I’m trying, people.
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.