Sunday, July 17, 2016

Looking Up and Out - Why I'm ditching the "smart" part of my smartphone

I'm fresh off of a week of camp in central Michigan followed by a week backpacking in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Both of these of these trips were great, both were exhausting; and both were ironically refreshing. The refreshing part may have to do with something else these two weeks shared in common, -during both weeks there was limited to no cell phone coverage.

That's right, no emails, no texting, no weather reports, Pokemon Go, face bent into the cool glow of a three by five inch screen. Last week the upper left corner of my phone's screen held steadfast to it's "no service" stance, every one of the 5000 thousand times I checked, ...the first day. 

It was weird. 

It was weird because there were more people saying more things around me. There were more clouds, more trees, more conversations, and more going on everywhere I looked than there usually is. I had more time. I sat and chatted with real people about real things we did that day. I read a whole book in just a couple evenings by the light of a headlamp. I sketched a view of the forest right in front of me on a coffee filter. Cell phone service must affect a lot more things than I thought it did. 

Admittedly much of what I experienced had to do with where I was and who I was with. Being at camp with my family and the student ministry team I work with is one of my favorite places in the world, and being out in nature, up in the mountains, with my daughter and friends is in the same category. But being free from the incessant beckoning of the flat rectangle in my pocket was a major factor as well. 

It felt like losing all the life-enhancing features of my phone was, well, life-enhancing. Being disconnected felt like being connected. And all of this really got me thinking. What exactly am I trading for the attention I'm directing toward my phone? Am I trading presence where I am? Am I trading irreplaceable moments with my kids? Am I trading instantaneous knowledge for wonder? Immediacy for patience? I think many times I am. I've always felt we're so busy asking if we can do something we forget to ask if we should. Anyone can get my attention at any point anywhere, but should they be able to? We can know anything at anytime but is it good for us to? I'm starting to think the answer is no. 

So I'm ditching it. 

I'm turning my smartphone into a dumbphone, or just a phone anyways. Turns out it's easy to do if you have an iPhone. I'm sure the transition will be a bit rough. I'll still be on email all day at work, but nearly everyone I know uses text as the primary mode of communication. If it doesn't yield big pluses in my life it won't be worth it, but I'm betting it will.

So here's to my neck bending upward and my eyes looking out. Here's to being where I am, when I am. Here's to connecting by disconnecting. Here's to spending more time on what really matters. I'll let you know how it goes...  Oh, my phone number is 616-481-9299, if you want to talk.