*This originally appeared in August 2015 on my blog mylifesettomusic. I came across it today and found myself motivated once again to put my phone down. I am challenging myself to be more present. More engaged. To take in my surroundings without feeling the need to reach for my security blanket – my phone. I wish I could say after writing this I frequently made the choice to leave my phone in the van, but that isn’t the case. Would I on occasion? Sure. But not as much as I had hoped. Reading this today has motivated me to be more conscientious about putting my phone down, or not taking it with me at all.
I am a phone addict. And here is my confession……..
I did the unspeakable today. I left my phone in the van. On purpose.
I pulled into the library parking lot, grabbed my phone, held it in my hand, and then placed it back down. I looked at it and thought, “Nope. Not right now.”
For some of you this may be a regular occurrence, but for me it was something new.
I normally don’t leave my house without my phone. It’s like an extension of my body. Wherever I go, my phone goes. I am constantly checking it. For what? I’m not sure. Checking the time. Checking the weather. Checking email. Checking Facebook. Checking Instagram. Checking something. Always checking.
But not at the library. Not today.
At first, I felt a little uncomfortable.
I would imagine it’s how a small child feels when they realize they don’t have their favorite pacifier, or blankie, or whatever it is that they can’t go without. Unlike a toddler without his pacifier, I had the restraint to not throw my body on the floor and have a complete meltdown until someone retrieved my missing item. I remained calm, cool, and collected and stayed put. I was determined to make it through this library visit unattached.
We went to the kid’s area, as usual, and my son ran over to the train table, as usual. As he was starting to play, I made my way to the rocking chair. Seemed like a good place to rest.
I wish I could say I was filled with peace and contentment as I enjoyed this quiet moment watching my son play with the other kids at the library, smiling and making small talk with the other moms all the while. But I can’t say that.
What I can say is that, in that moment, I wanted my phone. It’s true. I did. Sounds horrible, right? Here I am, at the library with my child, and I’m wanting my phone. Why couldn’t I just be content sitting and rocking and watching? When did I become so dependent on this gadget?
In that moment I realized that I had turned into a full-blown smartphone addict. (Insert dramatic tv show sound here. Bum. Bum. Bum.)
As I sat there, I started to think about what made me so uncomfortable. At what point did I exchange looking up and engaging with my surroundings for staring down at this device in my hand?
I realize, like with most addictions, it was a slow progression. I actually resisted getting a smartphone for awhile. I didn’t see the need to have such a large amount of information available all of the time. But then, my thoughts started to change. I realized having that information at my fingertips may not be all bad. My friends who had smartphones seemed to love them. Okay, why not? I’ll give it a try. Just a little never hurt anyone. Sounds like the beginning of a problem to me. Addictions are baby steps in a direction you usually don’t even realize you are heading, until you arrive there. Then you think, how did this happen? You try something once, and then again, and then a little more, and before you know it you can’t go without it.
It was the same with my phone. At first, I would pick it up on occasion throughout the day. I would see people on their phones all of the time and think, “those silly people. Always on their phones.” That wouldn’t be me. Famous last words.
As most addictions go, a little here and a little there slowly turned into a lot. And before I knew it, I was one of those silly people. My phone was by my side at all times, and I could no longer leave the house without it.
But I did. I went to the library. I left it in the van. And I survived.
Actually, once I moved past the initial discomfort, I found that I kind of liked not having my device. It was nice to feel more present and engaged with my surroundings. But in order to get to that point, I had to move past all of the what-ifs that went through my mind.
For example, “what if someone from the school tries to contact me and I don’t have my phone?” Answer: For years and years and years, people did not have phones that they carried with them and they still left the house. The kids will be fine. If they really need to get ahold of someone immediately, they can call my husband, and if it’s super important then he knows where I am and he can call the library and they will page me. What? Page me over the intercom? Yep. Page me. And, if they can’t reach my husband, then they have an entire list of emergency contact information. Reality is I will only be here for 20 minutes or so and everything will be okay if they can’t reach me right this instant.
But, “what if someone else needs to get ahold of me right away and it’s an emergency and they don’t know where I am, or how to reach me? Then what?” Same answer. People left the house all of the time without phones for years. It will be okay. 20 minutes. Remember.
But, “what if that wall clock really isn’t accurate? My phone is always accurate.” So what? If we are being honest here, I am late all of the time anyways. Now I can have another excuse. “It was the wall clocks fault. The wall clock made me late.” There we go.
But, “what will I stare at when everyone else around me is staring at something and I feel awkward and uncomfortable because I have nothing in my hand? What happens then?” Hmmmm???.
Yep. It’s true. As I have put away the phone, and started to observe my surroundings more, I have realized I’m not the only one with this problem. In fact, it seems to be pretty rampant. We are a society of checkers. This addiction is sweeping the nation, the world, one smartphone checker at a time.
So, what am I going to do about it? Step one is admitting there is a problem. So here goes, I have a smartphone problem. There. I said it.
The next thing I’m going to do is just what I did at the library today. I’m going to stop taking my phone with me everywhere I go. Of course I will have it in the car because “what if I get lost and need directions?” That’s a what-if I’m just not ready to face yet. Baby steps people.
But, I will attempt to leave it in the car, or in my purse, more often. Especially when I’m with other people – because if I’m checking my phone all of the time then I’m not fully present; and I want to be fully present. I want to be available to the people around me, and I want to be aware of my surroundings. I want to be comfortable just sitting and watching and waiting and looking around and maybe catching the eye of someone else and giving them a friendly smile. I want to not have to look up from my phone when we are at the park and my kids are wanting to show me the awesome trick they just learned. I want to have already been watching them, and not need them to yell my name five times before they get my full attention. I want to be fully present. I want to be fully engaged.
I want to put the phone down. On purpose. More often. And that my friends, is just what I am going to do.
*I ended all of my posts in my old blog with a song. This is the one I chose to go with this post many years ago. While it is about a relationship and not a phone, the whole idea of “I need you now” seemed pretty fitting.