1990s summer without a phone

A week has gone by since I decided to exist without an iPhone. One morning it bounced off my garden chair and crashed into the cement floor. I was annoyed; my screen cracked for the second time, only now it didn’t turn on— the screen was a stubborn black. I didn’t rush to fix it, instead I hid it in my drawer, and pretended it never was.


The iPhone is the object that goes “ding ding,” and even when it doesn’t, you’re anxious, so you find yourself checking this handheld device constantly, only to wonder where time went. Sometimes I go in to check the time, and suddenly I’m deep in searches, articles half read, long-winded text messages, and the big book I’ve been trying to read on the train, is still on the same page.

I’ve had the same iPhone for about 4 years despite newer versions. I don’t see a reason to update unless it it stops working completely, and even then there’s a good chance the Apple kingdom and their blue workers can fix it.

There are intervals when I don’t bother with my phone, and seriously try to focus on making my seconds count. I take long walks, get lost, go to a park, or read a book, and if I’m on the train without anything to read, the phone option is irrelevant. Here and there I slip back into zombie mode. I’m not alone, I look around and everyone is using some sort of device. It use to be that there was a mix on the train: people reading books, some with their phones, others with newspapers, and some staring into nothing. Now it’s mostly eyes to phone screen. It’s commonplace to see people texting while walking or during the middle of a conversation, and the dreadful selfie with a stick is spreading.

This is the kind of stuff you see when you look up from your cellphone.
This is the kind of stuff you see when you look up from your cellphone.

There’s always an itch to open your phone. How to get from point A to B ? I start google maps and find the dot. The place may not be far, and what’s the worst that could happen, I find my own way? If I’m searching for restaurants, bars or concert venues, I think, which one is the closest and has the best reviews. Phones have a way of making life easy, by giving you the answer. Despite the many options granted by smartphones, the choice is harder to make than if left on your own. If you’re in business of looking for the “perfect place,” there’s no end— it’s a paradox of choice, and that goes for everything else on your phone. Even if you’re not using your phone, you’re busy thinking if you should answer that text or email, or how you should answer, which ultimately alters your experiences. If you want to challenge yourself by spending less time on your phone, WNYC’s Note to Self has a new project, Bored and Brilliant which helps people find creative ways to resist the phone-temptation.

It so happens those moments of staring into nothing turns to thoughts and stories— boredom can lead to imagination and memory. The stories you tell yourself about other people and the world. If your head is lost in the digital rabbit hole, you’re bound to miss it.

Image: Cynthia Via
Image: Cynthia Via

Getting rid of your shiny phone, doesn’t sound realistic. Most people need it for keeping track of their friends, news, work emails, social media sites, music and countless of other things. My smartphone allows me to take photos, keep notes, and make quick searches. One valuable app I use frequently is Merlin. Honestly I can replace these things with a camera, notepad, newspaper and a bird book. Though not the most convenient, it keeps one sane.

Mainly my phone let’s me remain connected to people I care about. Since no one calls anymore(there are a few exceptions), text messages are the way of communicating, and also chatting through social media. I figure, if I need to talk to someone there’s always a way. For the most part I’ve been checking Facebook and twitter when I’m home. The libraries are still out there for quick searches (you can laugh). If all else fails going the cheap, basic phone-route is not so bad. Of course the dead zone option is still available, or no? A land line. It’s starting to feel like the 1990s in this heat.

Can't a girl sulk in peace? Next to a pink phone furry peluches.*
Can’t a girl sulk in peace? Preferably next to a pink phone and furry peluches.*

How I felt without a phone? I felt free, going outside without a device permanently attached to me. There was space to be bored, to be creative with my thoughts, to wander with a spacious mind. I didn’t have the false perception of connectivity. I was alone. And there was no smartphone to tell me otherwise. At times I caught myself wanting to check my iPhone when I knew it was broken.  After a while the gnawing feeling to check my phone faded.

As an adult, I find iPhones addictive and stressful. After having a week off, I’m thinking I can extend it to a month, and see where it goes. But the reality of my work days are kicking in, so I may lessen my phone usage overall by leaving it at home or allowing myself only necessary views, possibly at the day’s beginning and end. Going without an iPhone even for a week has given me control, allowing me to take a conscious approach to using my cellphone. In the long run I want to keep it as a camera, or sell it. As for the time, I have a wind up watch, and a journal to keep notes.

*Peluches: (rough translation) plush toys