On my walk the other day, my phone died right after I took this photo, which I’d been waiting for the conditions to line up for all Autumn. And I mean right after, as in I took the picture, and the next second my phone turned off. I actually worried that maybe it didn’t save properly, but instead it turned out absolutely perfect.
This meant that for the rest of my walk, I was unplugged. Really, truly unplugged, which doesn’t actually happen very often. I didn’t know what time it was, I was waiting for friends to text me back, I wanted to take more pictures of my beautiful surroundings, my mom was about to phone me, I wanted to listen to my podcasts or my music. Safe to say: I noticed myself get mildly irritated that I wasn’t tethered to my phone and couldn’t access all the benefits it gives me.
Ew! Gross, right? I try to live my life as quietly as I can (no notifications, no vibration or alerts from my phone, Do Not Disturb almost 24/7) and am constantly experimenting with ways to reduce my addiction to technology (this week’s test: putting my phone in grayscale to make it less fun to play with). But even though I work on this stuff all the time, having my phone decide for me that I couldn’t use it was a bit jarring. I still wanted that connection! I wanted to be tethered to my loved ones and listen to things I like! I wanted to be plugged in on my own terms.
If I’m honest though, even when it’s “on my own terms” I still find it hard to manage my compulsive checking. I’m constantly trying to set rules for myself to reduce this tendency, but I don’t always follow them. It really does work best when I remove the temptation completely: having Airplane mode on overnight so I’m not tempted to check messages before breakfast, turning off data use for apps like Instagram so I don’t constantly check them while I’m out and about. (Perk: I haven’t run out of data since making that change.)
On an episode of Happier, Gretchen and Elizabeth interviewed Moby and asked what his #1 tip was for people to be happier. I loved his answer, but it kind of has haunted me, because I have not very often followed his advice. Here’s what he said, in a condensed form:
“Make an effort to be around nature. Leave your phone at home. Don’t go into nature and listen to podcasts. Give yourself a break from the world of people. Don’t look at a screen, don’t listen to music, don’t check Facebook, just give yourself an hour of looking at this world that has nothing to do with humans.”
The truth in this advice rings through for me loud and clear, despite the fact that I find it hard to follow.
Today I’m going up north for one night with a friend, and I want to go off the grid a bit. I want to pretend there’s no cell phone reception or wifi (for all I know, maybe there really is neither!) and get quiet instead. I want to use my phone as a camera and a note-taking device, but not a connecting device. I don’t want to look at Instagram, or Facebook, or my email. I want to write in my journal and take pictures with my big camera and just be.
Because here’s the other thing? When I got home after that peaceful walk and plugged in my phone, I had one text message and no missed calls. I hadn’t missed anything, and I’d gained so much.