After yet another billing squabble with our mobile phone service provider, my husband asked me what I thought about cancelling my phone contract entirely.
And then I died dead of horror.
Okay, so not quite that bad.
But still. My phone? How will I text? How will I call people? How will I check my email when I’m out for the day? How will I find the closest coffee shop quickly? How will I get where I’m going without Maps? How will I occupy my children in church? Will anyone know I’m occasionally funny if I don’t tweet my wit?
After a week of looking at our finances as well as our dreams for the future, I realised he was right: the phone needed to go. I don’t work in a traditional job, I don’t drive long distances, I really don’t use it much (or so I thought).
So sure, let’s get rid of my mobile. No big deal. I can totally do this. Right?
I’ve now been without mobile phone access for a month or so. And I’ve noticed a few things
I used that phone waaaaaaaay more than I thought I did. I had a hand-me-down first-generation iPhone (yes, the original ones with the round corners and no flash on the camera). I prided myself on “having boundaries” with my phone. And yet, that first week without my phone felt like withdrawal. Painful withdrawal.
I’m safer. British Columbia has a strict Hands-Free driving policy. Police will give you a ticket if you are caught with your phone in your hand while driving. And I was sure that I didn’t check my email or my messages – much – while driving. But my most common time to want to reach for my phone after we turned off the service? While I was driving. I couldn’t believe it. (I thought I was smarter than that.) Apparently I was checking email at stop lights. I was “quickly glancing” at text messages that bonged in while barreling down the highway at 100 km/h. Once my phone was gone, my attention was more fully on the road. Or on CBC Radio (yes, I’ve got an unreasonable crush on Jian Ghomeshi, so what?)
I’m saving money. Our plan was for $50 a month, yet somehow, I always exceeded that plan to the tune of $70-80. By getting rid of our phone, we’re saving a minimum of $600 a year (but it’s probably more like $960/year). Craziness. We have some dreams about being more intentional, counter-cultural, and generous with our money so we’re doing everything we can to get the house in order as fast as possible. This is a seemingly small step that adds up over the years. I had no idea we were spending that much every month on my ability to check email while driving.
I can still use wireless access. Holla! Who knew, right? When we were close to pulling the plug on our contract, I admitted that the primary reason I love and use my phone is Instagram. I have a terrible camera in my phone but I love taking pictures throughout my day, and I love the Instagram community. I seriously contemplated hanging onto my phone for the purposes of Instagram. But then I realised, I can still use my actual phone with wireless access. It’s a bit limiting, absolutely. It takes the “insta” out of Instagram. But I still take pictures throughout my day, and then, when I’m home and on our wireless, I can upload them and still check out Instagram pics.
I’m not quite as rude to others. I can’t assuage my boredom at appointments. I can’t decided I’d rather be on Twitter than talking whomever is in the room. I can’t scroll through my phone in church. I can’t hold my phone like a shield at home group.
I feel less accessible. It might come across as a negative but, on the contrary, this is one of the greatest wins for me. Now, when I’m out, I’m out. It takes away the sense of urgency for my online life. Email has to wait. Responding to comments has to wait. Tweeting has to wait. I have no idea what is happening on Twitter or in my comment sections for huge chunks of my day, and that is a great gift to enjoy.
It’s inconvenient. Totally and gloriously inconvenient. The first day I got rid of my phone, I had made plans to go to the theatre with my sister (Les Miserables, you know it). I waited and waited and waited in the theatre lobby but she never appeared. Normally, I would have texted her in two seconds. But now I waited. I went on a hunt for a pay phone which was practically an adventure. After I found one, I deposited my quarter, dialled the number and promptly heard the operator instruct me to deposit another $3.60. I hung up. I didn’t need to talk to her that badly. Pay phones have gone up since the last time I used one, which was likely when I was 13 and calling my mother for a ride from the mall after trying on inappropriate and cheap club wear at Le Chateau. I went into the theatre, sat on the edge, and kept an eye out for her. She showed up five minutes after the movie started, apologetic and worried. She had gone to the wrong theatre by mistake, she couldn’t call me, we were both so sorry and relieved. That entire situation would not have happened if I had my phone. But on the flip side, I have become more careful about plans in advance and less prone to being late or cancelling. Without a phone, I have to honour the plans I make with people. Instead of being able to text with an “oops, I’m running late!” pseudo-apology excuse as I was prone for my lack of value on their time, I have to get my bum in gear and get there on time.
I’m both more present and more private in my moments. There isn’t another option than the present moment. I can’t decide to check out on the conversation at hand if I’m bored. I don’t get to “quickly check” my phone while at the playground. I’m looking around the world more, my head is up, my eyes are open. I noticed my surroundings, the people, my tinies, my life again. I’m listening a bit better. I haven’t had to say “I’m sorry, I missed that – what did you say?” quite as often. I actually live the moment instead of Instagramming the moment. I can’t post a status or a tweet from everywhere I am, the temptation to take a picture of my food has disappeared (and everyone said hallelujah) and I have restored a measure of privacy and secrecy I’d forgotten to appreciate or notice. It’s nice to disappear. I like my secrets. Not having a phone has restored some balance, beauty, and perspective to my life.
One of my favourites, Heather of the EO, is launching a new podcast called Power Down with a couple of her friends. It’s about finding the balance in online writing/social media life with our creativity and our time. Check it out.