This weekend I accidentally spent six hours without my phone. I say accidentally because it wasn’t a conscious decision, and at first I felt a bit lost without it. I didn’t notice that I dropped my phone getting out of my car in a parking lot where I met up with some friends for a hike, so I spent six hours in the great outdoors while my iPhone spent six hours underneath my car in the dirt.
And I must say it was kind of liberating. I’m not addicted to my phone in the sense that I check my work email when I’m not at work (I don’t even load my work inbox on my phone to respect my work/life balance) and I’m not constantly facebooking or tweeting my every move. But it is how I stay connected to my life, and I find myself at times using my phone as a distraction. More and more I find myself checking my phone when I have nothing else to do: when I’m standing in line at a store or when there’s a lull in conversation or when the commercial break comes on. Often times I don’t even need to know what’s going on with my Twitter feed or what the latest news headline is, but it’s almost like a habit to scroll through my various social media networks just because I can.
So instead of checking my phone at the top of the hiking trail, I sat and enjoyed the beauty of the perfect summer day. Instead of plugging into my playlist to keep me energized on the way up, I focused on regulating my breathing and enjoying the sounds of nature around me. I didn’t once feel the need to let my Facebook friends know via the humble brag how quickly I had hiked to the top or how productive I was with my Saturday morning while everyone else was still sleeping. And when I sat outside with my friends for lunch afterward, I wasn’t concerned with who was texting me or how many likes my latest status update had. It was nice to enjoy a good meal and interesting conversation without once glancing down at my iPhone screen.
In other words, I wasn’t distracted; I was fully present. I wasn’t worried about what I was missing out on, so I could be focused on what was happening in real life.
There’s nothing wrong with our technology, and I’m incredibly thankful for how cell phones and social media make it easier to stay connected to my friends and family than it’s ever been before. But those six hours of being cellphone free were a good reminder that unplugging and focusing on the present is a good thing. And maybe I need to be more concerned with the face to face rather than with what’s happening online.
For me, it’s probably a good habit to disconnect from my phone every once in a while, just to remind myself not to trade real life for a backlit screen.