I didn’t have the best start to my week. First there was the putting-half-a-toilet-roll-into-the-toilet-and-then-weeing-on-top-having-already-pooped-underneath incident. Had to do a hands in the carrier bag like picking up dog poo manoeuvre. Won’t name the guilty family member. Then, at the very end of that day… I lost my iPhone.
Dum dum daaaaaa! I think it fell out of my pocket not far from our house (friggin hareem trousers) and must have been picked up. I’m not on a handset included contract because the Money Saving Expert recommends that if you can afford to pay outright for a phone and get a very cheap sim-only deal you will save money in the long run. Oh but that’s if you don’t lose it. Cheers MSE for also recommending I don’t “waste” money on insurance! Ha. Anyway, I worked out that I still did save money overall having bought a refurbished phone that I had for 15 months – win! BUT that still leaves me with the potential need to spend another couple of hundred quid to replace it.
It got me thinking. What would my life be like without a smartphone?
I feel like I am permanently feeling discontent with how much of my time is spent on my phone. I have tried various ways of implementing boundaries to limit it but all have failed ultimately. Only check Facebook once a day… oh but we are going to that event this evening and all of the details are on Facebook and I’ve already been on! And other such issues that feel genuine in the moment.
So, since perhaps I was dealt a blow of fate… I decided to conduct an experiment.
I decided to get a ten pound phone that I could call and text on so when I was out and about I was able to contact and be contacted. Also we don’t have a home phone so it’s actually quite essential I have something at home that I can make calls from.
Let’s just clarify one thing: I have an iPad mini that can connect me to all the things my iPhone connected me to. BUT it doesn’t have 3G and is bulky so even if I might be able to get hold of some wifi when out and about I won’t want to take it out every day and risk damaging or losing it. I also won’t transport it around the house in my pocket, like a phone, it will take more intent to pick it up and look at it for a period of time.
The phone I’m using is actually one I bought for my Dad to use whilst in hospital nearly a year ago. His phone went missing and he just needed a basic thing to contact his loved ones on. I remember him advising us to not spend too much time on our phones and so it feels apt I am using his phone for this experiment (that I feel I personally want to do at this time, it’s not because he said that and it’s not for everyone). I was reminded how in difficult times, we don’t crave the sometimes empty connections on social media, we want the very present and deep connection we have with those most close to us. Hopefully we have invested in them enough to find they are there when we need them.
In the news this week was the story of the girl who “quit” social media despite having over 600,000 followers on Instagram and being quite a social media celeb. Her reason was that it was a false world that gave the appearance of perfection and that’s not real life. I thought of times when I’ve seen lives portrayed in a certain way, all positive and sunny, but I know behind that presentation, it’s all falling apart. I remembered a time when I posted a conversation with my son that was supposed to be funny and in the comments I felt I was quite clearly, yet underhandedly, encouraged to change my priorities. I felt judged and criticised and thought… but if you really knew me and how my life is right now you wouldn’t think that, you had misread the situation entirely.
I have had a revelation this week about social media and how it masquerades as the ultimate tool for connecting with people – but in fact it isn’t real connection, it is a lie.
Instead of spending ten minutes scrolling the news feed feeling like I’m connecting with other adults when I’m home all day with the children, I could write an email to my friend abroad updating her on how I really am and investing in a genuine connection with her. I was talking to someone today about this and they raised an interesting point – how often do you sit and show someone your holiday photos? You learn so much about a person when they share their joy over an experience with you. Yes, we have many family and friends abroad and social media is certainly a great tool for sharing photos and videos. I’m not saying never, but perhaps sometimes I could invite someone round to see my holiday snaps instead, or even better, instead of flicking through someone else’s on Facebook I could ask to be shown them.
So why not quit social media you say? Well, because it is a useful tool for communicating, for sharing charitable causes, for planning events and many other things. But I realised I have been seeing it all wrong. I need to use it as a tool for those things, not as a way of sharing myself, my life, and most importantly, really connecting with people.
Using it as a tool in that way should put it in its rightful place in my daily use of it.
Now, social media may absorb a LOT of your time, you may be very open and post a lot. That’s not a crime and I don’t want to seem all holier-than-thou returning to the brick-phone age in some superior manner. I’m just sharing my journey with this. I may get an iPhone again. I know I will miss the camera, the satnav and contacting my friend abroad over whatsapp. But I know I felt ‘free’ the first day I went without it. As if I no longer had this magnet in my bag that pulled me towards it all day every day. When I am out with friends and family I won’t have any choice but to leave social media and emails alone and I think I will be thankful for that in the long run.