Back in October I spent two nights away in Tewkesbury without my phone. I knew I had a problem, but the very unpleasant withdrawal I experienced over those two nights made me realise how much I’d lapsed. I’d tried various blocking apps on my smartphone but whatever I tried there was always a way round it. So I decided it was time to go back to the Sony Ericsson dumbphone I had until 2019.
Now pretty much the only things I can do on my phone are call and text. Not having WhatsApp and Signal has proved slightly inconvenient when it comes to being included in groups, but I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of it doesn’t really mean anything anyway. What’s meaningful is voice and in person communication. That’s real human connection. So that’s what I’m trying to focus on now. I’ve still got a bit of a way to go when it comes to being as connected to people as I’d like to be, but I think limiting my communication options is a step in the right direction.
I’ve come to the conclusion that compared to in-person communication, things like WhatsApp create the same illusion for me that Facebook did. It makes me feel like I’m connected to people when I’m actually not, and in reality the more I use these things the more I become disconnected from people.
A couple of people have asked me if the dumbphone is a temporary thing, but I can’t see me going back anytime soon. I still have a smartphone I have for work, and I’ve found myself increasingly using that when I don’t need to over the last few weeks which is something I need to keep an eye on and a reminder how bad for me it is having access to this kind of device. As I’m currently on a break from work for the festive period I’ve turned it off, which feels better.
It’s interesting the reactions I get when people see my phone. Some people are in disbelief as to how it’s possible for a human to function with such a device. Other people are in admiration. I got chatting to a lady on the bus the other day that was full of teenagers who had just come out of school. She commented to me on how many of them were glued to their phones, and when I told her I’d given up my smartphone and showed her the phone I’m using she shook my hand. Some people experience both bafflement and admiration. “I wish I could do that” one person said.