Is life better without a smartphone?

May 9, 2014 | In: Richard Naish

Day 1:
OK so having a run despite the pouring rain was commendable, but perhaps I shouldn’t have taken my iPhone with me. Afterwards I took it out of the zipped gore-tex pocket and it was soaked.
Turns out it was terminally damaged. Luckily my Applecare+ insurance means the nice folks at Apple send me another one by courier in 2 working days.

But with the weekend, I now have 4 days without a smartphone. I dusted off my Nokia 6310i and changed sims. The 9310i was the recognized leading corporate handset until it was phased out 10 years ago. There is still an active market for them since the battery lasts for a week, which is unheard of in modern smartphone-land.

So how will life be without a smartphone. Will I be as productive? Will I waste less time? Will it mean more face-to-face time with family and friends?

Day 2:
The good news is that I carried the Nokia around in my pocket as normal, but just stopped getting it out to have a look at it. It can only receive texts and calls, so there is no reason to check it. No latest international news, emails, twitter conversations. Didn’t miss any.

Did feel a bit strange watching a movie and not pulling out my iPhone to check on the IMDB app for trivia and other films the actors had been in. Actually had to fully concentrate on a film for once; think I enjoyed it more actually.

Was conscious of ‘little gaps of time’ when normally the phone would be straight out. Instead I filled this time with more positive things that I wanted to do. Family interaction was definitely better without the distraction of a clever device; more constant.

The downside that texting was a complete pain. I usually use Siri to dictate my texts, so going back to using multiple key pushes just to type one letter was excruciating. Texts were definitely shorter and to the point.

Day 3:
Really missed the video camera function. Went to a 80th birthday party and one of the older guests, who is a talented cello player, pulled out an ordinary wood-saw and played wonderful music with a bow.
Am also noticing some ‘leakage’; I am using my iPad more to check for news and email. So not completely cut-off, just not accessing it constantly like I would with a device in my pocket.

Day 4:
Had good impromptu conversations with the family in ‘smartphoneless gap time’ that may not have happened if I still have a smartphone; I would have been staring at a 9cm by 5com screen instead of being more conscious of people around me. Definitely a big plus for life without a smartphone.

I wonder how often people around the world check on the status of their online Facebook friends when all around them are real people that they could interact with?

Day 5:
iPhone arrives by lunchtime. Must admit to being slightly disappointed; I was enjoying the release of not checking it so often during the day.

Conclusion:
Smartphones can leave to addictive behaviour (checking and then using your phone too much) and means you miss out on a lot of life that goes on right under your nose. One can end up being busy checking what other people (who are not physically with you) are up to, saying or asking you, instead of engaging more with others around you.
It is an addictive behaviour that doesn’t lead straight to poor health like smoking, drugs or alcohol abuse. It is behaviour that can lead to us missing out what it means to be human.

What this little lesson has taught me is that other very positive things can happen in those little time gaps during the day. I will definitely be resisting the urge to pull out my smartphone in those little gaps and remain open to the positive unexpected.

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