The first mobile phone call took place in 1973, but I didn’t get my first phone until 1997.
It didn’t bother me to be uncontactable. I left my home and no one could contact me until I got to work. And the same again when I left work to go home, or went out. I didn’t even have an answering machine. If you wanted to talk with me, you had to call by my house or ring me when you thought I would be there because I shared my work phone with six other people. In those days, all I carried was my diary; whichever pretty A5 book that took my mother’s fancy that Christmas. It didn’t occur to me that I needed a camera, but I did have a portable cassette player I rarely used because I talked to people.
Current Mobile Phone Use
And yet these days when I realise I don’t have my phone or face the prospect of a reception dead zone I am dismayed. In my defence, I have my train ticket and emergency cash in my phone holder. My phone is more of a personal library or commonplace book than a phone, though I love texting! It contains my calendar and address book, notes about things I want to remember (shopping lists and expenditure tracking), and references (train timetables and conversion charts). In those pre-phone days, this was all contained in my diary.
Addicted to the Mobile Phone
Anyway, I’ve got an overnight trip coming up so I’ve been collecting together my electronic devices to make sure the software and apps are the latest versions, and trying to find the spare chargers and so on. It’s a lot of stuff, but I feel that I can’t be without any of it. Especially the ones I won’t use unless my phone dies. Even though it is doubtful that my schedule will allow me to use any of it. Even though I may not even be permitted to turn any of it on. Even though it means too much luggage.
And it reminded me of a short employment placement I had a couple of years ago where you had to surrender all your devices while you were in the office because you were dealing with confidential materials. Barely anyone was nipping out for a quick ciggy, but there was a constant stream of people in and out to check their phones. I still can’t imagine what would make you need to check your phone a couple of times an hour.
Breaking Your Mobile Phone Addiction
The jury is still out when it comes to the potential health effects of mobile phones, though the consensus on safety is to:
- use a headset when making a call
- not carry or store it near your reproductive organs or brain
- strictly limit children’s usage.
Not to mention that thing where you walk hunched over the screen and not looking where you are going; aside from walking into or being hit by things, you risk a neck injury.
So how can you claim your life back from your phone?
Well you could start by working out why you have it. Are you working on call and need to be contactable? Is it the only phone and internet access you have? Do you live in the middle of nowhere and can’t interact with people in person? Understanding the reasons you want and need a mobile will help you decide how to control it. Some ways you can do this are:
- When you get out of bed, don’t allow yourself to check your phone until you have at least bathed, had coffee and a chat with your partner. Keep that time pure and positive – your day will most likely start to get worse the first time you check your email or whatever on your phone.
- I recommend you turn off your notifications so the thing is not pinging or vibrating all the time, tempting you to pick it up and annoying the people around you.
- Uninstall those unimportant apps that eat up your time and chew through your data allowance like Facebook and Twitter. You can check them on your computer any time you like.
- NEVER drive with your phone turned on. You need all your attention to anticipate what all the other nut jobs on the road are doing so that you will arrive safely at your destination.
- When you get to your office, turn your phone off or switch to aeroplane mode so you can focus on your work. Or if you don’t trust yourself, you can get a variety of apps that limit your access and usage.
- When you go out to lunch with your colleagues, friends, partner or children, turn your phone off and focus your full attention on the flesh and blood real-life people you are with. The same with dinner. And recreational trips to the movies or stage shows so you don’t miss all the action. And vacations, so you can fully immerse yourself in the pleasure of not being in your rut.
- And at bedtime, leave your phone in another room. If you are worried you won’t hear your alarm, test it to be sure. Or even better, get a proper alarm clock.
As for me, I’m rethinking my gadgets for my trip. Maybe I’ll just take my journal and see what it’s like to be old-school uncontactable for a day. Just need to remember to print my tickets.