Are you long-time smartphone users happily married to your phone — or did you take a leap, unplug this weekend (for the National Day of Unplugging) and go it alone? How did it feel? Was the silence deafening or a reprieve? Did you feel like you lost your best friend? Truthfully. Maybe you couldn’t let go…
March 8, 2020 – Separation
I left the house today
And soon realized
I forgot the smartphone.
An automatic alert almost crept in — Should I go back?
But I automatically responded, “No. I’m glad to not have it here.”
And then I felt even happier to realize not only didn’t I want it
I didn’t need it.
Walking outside, loving the fresh air, sights of nature, and friendly hellos from those I don’t know in this other neighborhood, it is quiet enough to contemplate why I don’t need or want a smartphone or android or whatever you want to call this thing that wants to incessantly dictate my life, my time, my attention. My thoughts.
I feel content today. Well-rested. Productive. I woke up early, fed the cat, read the Tao, felt the circular Qigong flow, wrote, blogged, read and commented on some other blogs, began a load of laundry, read and answered some e-mails, cooked (not microwaved) and ate breakfast, took a 35 minute walk in the 40 degree cold… I never turned on the phone. In fact, I’m not sure where it is or if it’s charged. And I don’t care. At least for today. My HSP self loves the pace of days like this.
The Only Cure for Overexposure is Reducing Exposure
I discovered some surprising wisdom about technology in the Tao te Ching. Credited to Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu from the sixth century BCE, his twelfth verse warns of over stimulation. This can easily be applied to smartphones and devices today:
The five colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors dull the mouth.
Racing through the field and hunting make the mind wild.
Searching for precious goods leads astray.
Therefore, the sage attends to the belly,
And not to what he sees.
He rejects the latter and chooses the former.
In The Tao of Joy Every Day, Derek Lin interprets Lao Tzu’s message to “care for the stomach and not the eyes” to mean “take care of the basic necessities of life and turn away from too much sensory input.” Lin further suggests “going on an information fast. Shift more of your time spent consuming content delivered electronically to simpler, more basic activities in life. Instead of indulging in virtual reality, spend more time in the actual reality of the physical world.” Makes sense to me.
I flip back through my smartphone diary that ended on January 25th…
January 27, 2020 – The Big Blow-Up
I’ve wasted the last two days before leaving for Turks & Caicos trying to understand and get this device to cooperate – take a photo, upload a photo. Get a call. Make a call. Instead the Google Pixel 3XL alerts me with dings, pings, news, e-mail, and unwanted ads. I think I’d rather be bit by a rabid dog. I can’t stand it…my brain screams aloud!
January 30-31, 2020 – Incompatibility?
The Pixel does what it wants when it wants. There is no arguing or web-based solution I can find to stop it’s pounding on my door. “Go away,” I say. I think we are incompatible. “We are too opposite and set in our ways.” I value my independence, free spirit and ability to think for myself.
It’s 5PM now…I need to pack. De-stress. Get away from this. Live real life. Pick a book to read on vacation. Forget about passwords, codes, locking and unlocking. Forget the devices — at least for now. I need to get some things done. I’ve never been one to throw things but — if it didn’t cost so much, I feel like throwing this phone against the wall or in the trash. Now I’m becoming the monster!
I want to be productive!!!
A friend tries to cheer me with this video. Laughter is good medicine. And so are human friends with hearts.
February 1, 2020 – Mediation
It’s the day before I fly out. I don’t want to overload the phone’s memory with photos but I don’t want my photos in “the cloud”…especially knowing Google plans to hold me hostage in a few years by charging me to store my stuff in their cloud. I bought the cord that says it’s Pixel 3XL compatible but it’s not working…
Waiting in line 15 minutes for my turn with the Geek Squad, I’m behind a woman who could be my grandmother. We’re both patiently waiting while a middle-aged couple is being helped at the counter (see video above).
“Hi,” I smile, when it’s my turn, happy the grandson-like Geek is waiting on me again. I suppose he remembers me, the selfish middle-aged woman who doesn’t want to share with Google. But, I refresh his memory that he set up the phone and ask if he’d show me how to transfer photos from the Pixel to the laptop.
“I have to charge you $100 for that.”
What? “Just to give me instructions? It was $40 last time.”
Unsympathetically he shakes his head. “Sorry. It’s because data is involved.”
Disbelievingly, I shake my head. “No, I’m not paying $100.” My mind calculates the cost of this phone, the extra cables, protective case, glass shield, monthly service, programming… Do I really need this thing? I am paying a lot for this intrusion into my once manageable life…and that doesn’t count the expense of my emotional well-being or blood pressure meds I may end up needing. (Sigh.)
Leaving the store dejected, and feeling somewhat desperate, I remember there’s a PC shop down the road. It’s 15 minutes til closing time but the guy is friendly. He loves his Google Pixel. Finally, someone can help me! He patiently goes through the steps (a few times) and waits while I handwrite notes on what to do. Bless this man. He doesn’t even want to charge me and it’s a Saturday.
“I can’t leave without paying,” I say.
Slight pause, then, “Whatever you think.”
I hand him $25 and rush home to finish packing. I feel a bit lighter. A bit freer. Maybe, just maybe, this phone and I will become friends on this trip. I’m hopeful.
February 6, 2020 – Hopes Dashed
The endless Turks & Caicos sky mirrors turquoise waters. I think I’m taking photos to remember this bucket list trip. Back at the hotel, I swipe to see the photos. What? They are mostly shaky, pulsating videos. Have I mixed up the buttons? Apparently. I take more photos each day. Most I’ve deleted. Some accidentally. No need to download to the laptop. (I return home with a handful of pitiful photos.)
February 10, 2020 – Being Difficult
My friend calls.”How was your trip?”
We are in the midst of talking. I no longer hear her voice. I try calling back. No answer. My Pixel rings. I try to answer it. I hear her talking but she can’t hear me. She leaves a voice message. I pick up my landline and dial her number. We talk. Normally. We are not disconnected. The screen does not go black. I LOVE my landline.
February 15, 2020 – How Many Boomers Does it Take to Operate a Smartphone?
In the flooring store, I’m calling my installer for measurements. Hmm, good thing I have this phone — at least until it goes black. The phone rings and I can’t answer it. Two other boomers nearby try to help but none of us can get the call. One whips out his Samsung to make the call for me. A fourth person (younger store clerk) does the 1-2-3 swipe on my Pixel, touches my installer’s name in the contact list and voila’ the calls goes through. What?
Seeing my frustration, the boomer cashier says, “I hate these things. My daughter made me get one of these and I don’t know how to use it. I use to have a flip phone…” I smile back sympathetically.
I approach the younger store clerk. “Remember the last time I was here I just got this phone?” He smiles. “I still can’t use the darned thing. Could you show me how you got the screen back?” Again, he does the 1-2-3 swipe thing and says there are instructional videos on YouTube… Really? Does this “smart”phone have to be so complicated that I need instructions for the most basic tasks? I only want to make a call. Get a call. Take some photos… I am probably mumbling to myself at this point.
February 22, 2020 – Faster than…a Snail?
Finishing errands, I think I’ll use the smartphone to pull up movie selections on my way home. Wrong. The titles running quickly across the screen won’t allow me to select one. At the same time, I’m bombarded with flashing ads and annoying requests to download the movie app. Finally, I’m ready to give in — just to make them go away — until I see the app’s two star rating. Oh. (Groan.) I don’t need another problem to fix. I decide to not get involved.
I turn to YouTube for a tutorial. Halfway through it’s overtaken by another video that has nothing to do with what I was viewing. Really? This thing is“supposed” to save me time? I drive to the kiosk faster than getting the answer on the smartphone.
Most people tell me I have a calming presence. And I usually do. But the time this smartphone wastes raises my blood pressure. I’m afraid to see how high.
February 27, 2020– Limited Contact
The Pixel is charged but I ignore it. I resolve to turn it on for emergency calls only and hopefully better photos. I decide it will be my now and then, some of the time date. I think I can handle that.
February 29, 2020 – Misery Has Company
In sharing my vulnerabilities and frustrations with the smartphone world, I discover numerous others in my camp. Including my Tai Chi instructor.
Her “e-mail” reads “I have to laugh. My phone is back in its box on the counter. It’s been 30 days so I can’t send it back.”
She too, was forced to give up her flip phone for the supposedly “smarter” variety. I wish I could laugh about this. I’m also past the return date (and I suppose I would have to pay someone another $40-$100 or more to delete my personal info before returning it anyway…and then I have all those accessories too). What a dilemma. And a pricey one at that.
I feel a slight solace from others sharing the complexities of their smartphones or as another blogger prefers to call it the “dumb” phone. I’m gravitating toward this term.
March 2, 2020 – The Stand Off
Sadly, I realize if I don’t spend time with the smartphone I won’t be able to use it even for the basics — make a call, get a call, take a photo. Yet, my arms automatically cross when thinking about turning it on even for 15 minutes of “learning.” My mind shuts down foreseeing frustration. In honesty, I loathe the phone and it knows it.
March 5, 2020 – Imprisonment
I got along fine without a smartphone in my life before. Actually, I felt healthier. More calm. My life was manageable. I was efficient and productive. While the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” keeps returning in my head, the smartphone retorts, “If you don’t use me, you won’t learn how to, and then what? You can’t go back to the flip.” I feel trapped.
I don’t want the smartphone to think for me. I don’t want a smartcar to drive for me. I’m a great parallel parker and I back up just fine, thank you. Must I give up my independence? I’m feeling depressed. Maybe I’ll ask Google for a job so I can show them how to make a smartphone that boomers can use and actually like. Now I think I’m really losing it.
March 6, 2020 – Who’s at Fault?
Considering myself a logical, practical person, I question if the phone is really this complicated. Particularly when many tout the convenience of their phones while mine “wastes” my time. My flip phone would make a call, my camera took a photo. Maybe I got a faulty phone. Is it the Pixel or me?
March 7, 2020 – Lovin’ Life More than a Device
The National Day of Unplugging won’t be ending for me tonight. I’m so HAPPY without the phone. Doesn’t that say it all? And I think some others are too as evidenced by their dreams of unplugged time. I’m wondering what you did in 24 hours of unplugging. And I’m not talking about the sink drain…