What I learned without my phone

A couple days after I returned from CapriCon, my phone started randomly restarting and getting stuck in a boot loop. I tried, to no avail, to troubleshoot the problem, first following steps I found online, then with the help of Support. Once it became apparent that nothing was working, they sent me a new phone.

Here’s what I learned in two weeks without a functioning phone.

scott alone
from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World by Bryan Lee O’Malley

My wife and I recently moved across the country, from Michigan to Oregon. Though I miss my family and friends, I think I was hanging tough. Until my phone stopped working.

I texted with my brother quite often, several times a day, most days. He and I used to work together and on top of being my boss and my brother, he was also my best friend. Not being able to communicate with him whenever I wanted made me feel alone in a way that I haven’t, even in the six months since moving.

That got me thinking about how addicted to communication I was and am. And how casual that addiction is. For example, this morning I changed the ink cartridge in our printer. Unsure what to do with the old one, I was about to text my wife but then it hit me. I could have left her a note. I could have waited until I got home from work tonight. In short, it wasn’t an emergency, but I acted like it was. Not that I was running around screaming, but that kind of necessity for immediate communication used to be reserved for emergencies.

That got me thinking about everyday emergencies and how this generation is growing up.

When I had a bad day growing up, I had a couple of choices. I could find support in the people I was around, my friends and family. Barring that, I had to hold it together and wait until I got home, where I could either let myself fall to pieces or call someone to unload my sorrows.

But with instant communication, anyone can immediately find support, not matter how mundane their emergency is. People always bitch about how millennials don’t have coping skills or that they always need to feel safe and comforted. Well, that’s because, most of the time, they can pull their phones out and receive comfort instantly, since the act of reaching out has a calming effect.

I’m not saying it’s  good or a bad thing, but it is a thing that I think people either don’t understand or forget.


Not having a phone also started to affect my decisions.

I recently finished an overhaul on my bike and brought it home. I test rode it around our (very small) town a little bit and everything seemed to be working fine. There was a little bit of knocking in the cranks, but I thought that would smooth out with more riding. On a nice day last week, I wanted to ride to the next town and back–ten miles–to see how it did.

But I decided not to.

I didn’t feel safe without my phone. Not that it’s a magic talisman, but if something were to happen to me, I wanted a way to get a hold of my wife. I could have left a note with my route and the time I departed, like the good old days, but this goes back to what I said about emergency communication.

addicted to phone

And it’s not just communication. I rely on my phone for a lot. I’d log onto my computer multiple times a day to check my calendar because I was  paranoid about missing work. And it wasn’t just my work schedule. There are so many things that I casually check on my phone–like news and weather–that I felt unconnected from everyone and everything. Yes, I could check those things on my computer, but that requires more effort, so I did it less often. Suddenly it makes a lot more sense why, when I log into Facebook, I have twenty notifications because my mom went through and liked and commented on all of my statuses from the last week.


I don’t like feeling addicted to anything. When I quit smoking, it was because of the realization that I didn’t really want to smoke but I continued to out of habit.

Not that I’m going to quit my phone. Unfortunately, it has insinuated itself into all of my daily activities. Which is the shareholders’ dream.

This experience has taught me that my phone is not as necessary as I might think. But it’s still nice to have.

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