Despite probably needing one, I don’t have a therapist. Why spend the money on my mental health when I can do far more productive things such as purchase iPhone apps and pay off parking tickets? Which is why I panicked when I recently came to terms with a pretty disquieting personal truth and had no one to share it with: I am completely, inexcusably reliant on my cellphone.
It all hit me a few weeks ago while on a camping trip on the California coast. It was a day you’d read about in a John Steinbeck novel. To our left, the resplendent ocean and a sky speckled with the airiest of clouds. To our right, the rolling hills, kissed by the sun in such a way so as to give the illusion that we were viewing them through a sepia lens. The day was perfect…until a voice pierced the air: “Guys, I don’t get cell reception here!”
In an instant, paradise was clouded over with tension and panic. And as much as I’d like to remove myself from this embarrassing spectacle, I was one of the many shrill voices heard wondering how they were ever going to make it through the night.
“I’m expecting a text!” I heard someone scream. “What if we’re all killed? How will I be able to tell anyone?!”
Suddenly it was as if we were all lost in the desert without a compass.
At what point did we become so addicted to/reliant on our cellphones? I can’t even begin to recall the number of times I’ve been out with friends and halfway through a meaningful conversation someone is on their phone texting. I mean honestly, what is so titillating on the phone that can’t wait 10 minutes until I’ve finished over-sharing about my non-existent love life?
Our phones have created what I like to call SADD—Social Attention Deficit Disorder. How can we possibly live in the moment these days when so-and-so is texting us with plans for what to do next? Why should we sit on a park bench on a gorgeous spring afternoon and take in our surroundings while waiting for someone when we can preoccupy our time by looking down at our phones and catching up on emails from people we don’t care about?
If we were to really look at it objectively, this behaviour is nothing but habitual. We don’t need to be communicating with 15 people all at once, nor do we probably want to be. But we do it because we can, because it’s there. And now we can’t stop!
Back at the beach, as my anxiety subsided and a campfire was struck, my dead-to-the-world phone was put away. And for the next 24 straight hours we all survived. Conversations went uninterrupted by that all-too-familiar tapping sound of someone’s fingers on their keypad. Stories were told that didn’t involve a YouTube clip as illustration. And in the end, most of us forgot to even turn our phones back on. Which gives me hope.
If I was able to forget about my phone—which, let’s face it, is the closest thing I have to a child at this point—after only one day, this habit shouldn’t be too hard to break, right?
To clarify, it is still a habit, and now that I’m no longer camping and back in the real world, I can’t say I’m reformed, but now I try to think twice before instinctively reaching into my pocket for no reason. And what’s more, I can almost understand why some of my friends have never owned a phone. As infuriating as that can be if you’re the one trying to get in touch, there is something liberating about being in charge of whom you choose to talk to and when.
So for the next few months, I’ve vowed to look up from my phone and start living my life. It is the summer, after all. It’s a time for being one with nature, not inadvertently walking into telephone poles. And I look forward to being fully present in those sun-filled moments for the first time in a long while. Wish me luck!