Without Our Phones

When did we all of a sudden become so tethered to our phones? Whenever I take the train into the city, everyone has a device of some sort keeping them entertained. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about “the itch”. If you don’t know what I mean, the itch is this compulsion to check our phones. Constantly.

What would the world be without devices?
What would the world be without devices?

I’ve spoken about this subject before, but more from the time management, productivity angle. This Freedom Friday post is more from a rant perspective. As you know, I don’t rant on my blog—at least my regular readers know this. I try to keep things on the lighter side. Even my zombie-related posts have a thread of dark humor I weave through it, and for those who can see it, I’m grateful. Sometimes, the only way I’ll know if I did a good job of it is when I get feedback stating such.

But this constant obsession with checking our devices has gotten way, way out of hand.

I’m writing this from the standpoint that I, too, am a big offender. When my book came out last year, I couldn’t go a few minutes without checking my phone. With a blog, a twitter account, facebook page, Amazon and email, I had my hands full. Literally. Things did settle down a few months later, yet what a crazy time that was.

Then there’s the intimacy issue.

When I’m at the mall, I’ll sometimes sit at a bench and watch people. Twenty years ago, people watching used to be fun. Husbands would fight with their wives about the cost of a new dress. Wives would fight with their husbands for checking out the new blond cashier over at the deli. This happened more often than you think, probably still does. And parents would get mad at their kids for wanting that shiny new game featured in the window of the mall’s biggest toy store.

Nowadays, everyone has their head down and they’re not talking with one another.

Ah, but the counterargument to that observation is that we’re all being social online. It’s a different way to communicate. Yes, I agree. It is different. The nuances people use to get their point across while communicating online disappears. Sure we have the smileys, winks and frowns, but where is the involuntary brush of the hair when someone’s lying? Or seeing them bite their nails in conversation because of anxiety? Or hearing the inflection of their voice when they’re about to fall to pieces? Or the tender touch when opening our hearts?

We’re living in a world where bits of information has replaced reality.

What would the world be like if we’d put away our devices?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What about you? Do you find it difficult to put your phone down? What would you do differently to keep that phone disconnected and experience life as reality?

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29 thoughts on “Without Our Phones

  1. My cell phone is mostly for emergencies and on-the-road coordination when I’m in another area code. Thus I rarely get calls or messages on it. I don’t play games on it; that’s totally time wasted. i guess I’m a Luddite.

  2. I don’t like the phone to drive me. but it does at times. I will admit that it does sometimes, make me crazy about keeping up with people that I don’t see on a regular basis.
    When it comes to dinner with family at least when home, I don’t let myself be on the cell phone. I do sometimes find it very annoying when friends and sometimes family members get on the phone.I don’t feel thy are connecting. And as others have expressed it’s rude.
    I also am amazed that in another 10 years time, that we’ ll be able to talk to each other at all.Technology is great, but it sure does leave a ‘great disconnect’.
    Great topic Jack.

  3. Nothing wrong with socialising online, but what gets me is when I’m with a friend and they’re constantly on their phone and only half listening to me. I find it incredibly rude and frustrating.

  4. I can’t get over going to a restaurant or café, and seeing a table full of people totally engrossed in their phones and not interacting with ONE ANOTHER at all, unless of course they are texting the person right next to them. Or at the manicurist, watching women with wet nails who find it impossible not to check their phones when they hear the little “ping” of a text message, even though it’ll ruin the polish they just paid $20 for. Their impatience is epic. I LOVE that getting a manicure allows me to go off the grid for 30 minutes or so. These ladies don’t know what they are missing.

  5. The irony seems to be that whilst technology detaches us from those closest to us, it connects us to people thousands of miles away. I know people in America better than the people who live next door.

    As for mobiles I only keep one for emergencies, like if the car breaks down and I’m surrounded by zombies. (I’m okay with vampires.)

  6. As to that counterargument that we’re at least being social online…I’m not really a huge fan of the show South Park, but I’m reminded of an episode where the Internet is completely unavailable for some amount of time and then comes back. There’s a part near the end where a character named Shelly and her online boyfriend of sorts, who she has talked to online constantly before, finally meet each other in person. Their exchange is basically along the lines of “Oh hey. Hey. Um, eh, well uh…..so, I’ll see you online!” And like most things SP, the actual problem is presented in an over the top way (with Internet camps b/c people just absolutely can’t live without it) but the sad thing is that it sometimes seems we’re not far from being that dependent on technology. How many of us really COULD go without our phones and whatnot? Not many I’m sure!

    • If the Internet went down tomorrow – Internet, laptops, iPads, tablets, notebooks, smartphones, etc., I’m 95 – 100 % sure that there’d be a widespread panic.
      I watched an episode of NCIS where the local power & telecommunication grid was brought down & they had to use 1940’s technology. Leroy Jethro Gibbs had to teach them how to use a mimeograph machine.

      If terrorists REALLY wanted to hit us where we live, they only need to attack our electronic / telecommunications grid, THEN we’d be fair game for an invasion. Not a very comforting thought, I know.

  7. Nowadays, gadgets really helps us to be on real time. However, for me as an outdoor enthusiast, I’ve tried to live without any of it on hand. You know what? I had a better connection with our nature and most importantly the open wire to our creator.

  8. I couldn’t possibly agree more. We miss out on what is happening in the here and now and it becomes nearly impossible to be fully present. I have the great (?) habit of leaving my phone in my purse or forgetting where I left it in the house. (Kitchen? Laundry room? Desk? Eh, whatever.) It is a relief in that I don’t feel the need to constantly check it. This habit has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. I can’t tell you how many “Where are you? Is everything okay?!” texts I’ve received simply because I didn’t respond to the initial text in a timely manner. 🙂

  9. I agree… and I admit when I’m at home I do have the compulsion to constantly be online… to check to see if something new has happened… I found I would have the TV on and not even be able to enjoy the show because I was so busy checking the internet… and finally I’ve been trying more to put it away… and it helps me to thoroughly enjoy one piece of entertainment at a time… but this is one of the main reasons I don’t have a smart phone… I’m on the computer enough at home I don’t need to be able to get on it when I actually leave the house… I like my phone for in case of emergencies and would never want to be without it… but when I’m amongst people I want to actually interact… I’ll never forget one time I went out with 2 friends and we were at a restaurant and they both immediately got on their phones and I was left just hanging… and it was like geez if you didn’t want to talk to anyone then why even bother getting together? I find it rude and irritating and yet I’m the rude one if I say hey lets have an actual conversation here… this world is just going crazy…

  10. our children are the bigger victims. I’ve actually seen mothers ignoring their child because they are busy texting on their smart phone. We will be unable to communicate like normal people if the cell towers are ever destroyed

    • Same here, Marie. I’ve also seen mothers neglecting their kids because of being online. These devices have a sick hold of their victims and do not let go until blood is spilled.

  11. A couple of years ago I’d take my phone on holiday, arguing that if I knew what was happening at work, then I could relax knowing what I was returning to. Then I got therapy (my better half shouting at me) and realised the ugly truth – it was taking over my life. I have a friend who now confiscates his kid’s phones when they come home because once he caught them texting each other. Nothing wrong with that you say? They were in the same room! These devices are insidious, and as you say, Jack, FB, Twitter, WordPress, emails – they all need constant monitoring, don’t they?

  12. The singularity happened a few years ago and we didn’t even notice it! I’m terribly disappointed. It’s true however, people have now become their devices and there are alien lizard overlords inside of them, controlling what they think and how they feel. It’s the age of machines and I do believe that artificial intelligence has become a sentient thing. So what could possibly go wrong here, right? Right??

  13. I have a picture at a family get together of five or six of some of the younger people there and everyone single on of them has their head down scrolling through their phones! Technology is amazing, I too use it daily, but it does take away the intimate, personal experiences we should be having.

  14. I’m not a huge fan of reality, honestly. I prefer to live in my head, it’s way more fun in there LOL
    Reality is people chewing with their mouths open, spending money they don’t need to spend on crap and generally treating other people badly. I prefer the birds that pop pigs, towers of letters to make words and bits of brightly colored candy pieces to break up that live in my head. : )

    • I do like the view through my cell – camera lens, even though it isn’t a 100 % accurate view of life.
      Sometimes I deliberately disconnect to view the real world in all its nonsensical, weird, idiosyncratic, brilliant, stupid, creative, ugly, beautiful, logical, discordant, harmonious glory !

      • : ) that’s another thing I do a lot. my husband knows I don’t like crowds so if he wants me to go somewhere crowded like the fair or an air show or something he’ll approach it by telling me I can take lots of photos! Narrowing down the madness to the view through my camera lens always makes it easier for me and more interesting…LOL

  15. I just use it whenever I leave my apartment & / or use the camera to take some more than halfway decent photographs. But I don’t feel like I’d be lost without it. I text with it more than actual voice communication.

  16. I rarely get a call. I call my bank account to hear a human voice. I could talk to my wife but she reads my mind and me hers and therefore we communicate by esp. I could do without the phone.

  17. I find it difficult to put it out of my mind since I do so much through it. I’ve also come to find that my phone doesn’t always make a clear sound when a message comes through. That’s the strange thing that adds to the ‘itch’. If you call me then I hear my ringtone every time. A text, tweet, or FB message gives me an extremely brief noise that I can easily miss. Yet, most people I know refuse to call, so I have to check periodically to see if I have an urgent message like ‘get some milk’, ‘pick up your son from school’, etc. That’s where my nervousness comes in when I’m out of the house.

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