Maybe we’ve evolved towards leading a cyborg-like lifestyle: we constantly transmit and receive communicative signals through our mobile phones. These personal technological extensions of ourselves vault snippets of our visual memories and calculate routes for our terrestrial navigation.
As of last year, 90 percent of American adults were cell phone owners, according to Pew Research Center. This year, Pew reported that 64 percent of American adults own smartphones, devices which are especially prominent among demographics that are younger and more educated. Practices like researching health conditions, doing online banking, and finding real estate listings have all become popular functions of smartphones.
It’s easy to become attached to our cellular phones and get increasingly invested in the countless services they provide, but do we want things to be that way? Do we appreciate the ease of instant information access, or rather, need to take periodic breaks from technology out of principle?
Here is how we at BTR look at our relationships with mobile phones.
It seems that at any given moment, you can walk down a busy city street or a crowded aisle in the grocery store without ever making eye contact with the people around you. Instead, most gazes are turned to the bright screen of a cell phone or an iPad. Although staying connected is important, sometimes it’s nice to power down for a few hours and get back to basics. When I can, I like to hide my cell phone away for a few hours and enjoy my surroundings.
Just the other day, I took a spontaneous trip to a nature preserve not too far from home. I made the decision to leave my cell phone in the glove compartment of my car and headed out to the trails. I didn’t need the nagging vibrations of unimportant text messages to interrupt my hike. Instead, I was able to fully experience the natural beauty that exists in my backyard.
If I had brought my cell phone, I may not have noticed the small, idyllic things that now stand out in my mind, like the golden wildflowers or the birds nested in their birdhouses. When I got back to my car after a few hours and checked my phone, I hadn’t missed anything pressing. Overall, I had a great experience without my device, and I think I’ll start ditching it more often.
It’s not often that we get to truly be alone with ourselves. It seems like each corner of our lives has an LED screen lighting up and telling us an incomprehensible amount of information.
In a fit of anxiety from this, I’ve decided to make my mornings tech-free. I try to wake up early every day to take a walk near the water, without a cellphone or any time-source for that matter. Sometimes I’ll bring a book or a journal, but oftentimes, I just watch the water steadily crash onto the shore.
I remember that much of my anxiety to get moving and do more is really just a result of the propaganda brought about by information constantly flooding my brain via technology. When I sit under a shady tree near the ocean, I realize that it’s the only place I’m meant to be.
Having no cell phone made my study-abroad experience seem all the more magical. The effect of escaping from the bleak institutional constructions that made up my upstate New York alma mater to a school situated within the surreal Gothic and Baroque structures of Old Town Prague was enhanced exponentially by never having to respond to a text or ring. The acts of trampling down uneven cobblestone streets or staring up into the eerie, bisected cubical faces of sculpted babies installed on the TV Tower were never disturbed by beckoning from afar.
However, during my more recent return to Prague, having my cell phone came in handy when I managed to get locked out of my Airbnb late at night. The door’s lock somehow broke and so we stood in the hall, for an hour and a half, hopelessly rotating the key and tinkering with the mechanism. I gave up and called the host who called the emergency locksmith who reinstalled a new one in the wee hours of the morning–a Czech-language communication I could not implement myself.
My perception on whether having a cell phone is a blessing or a burden is thereby conditional.
Feature photo courtesy of Mo Riza.