Last week my phone broke. It was kind of traumatic and kind of awesome. I happened to be in Belize (poor me) so my phone was really only with me so I could receive any information about my daughter who was not with me. Emergency only really. But on the fourth day, I dropped my phone and the screen just went black. I could hear the phone ring, hear when text came in or a reminder for an event, I just couldn't see the screen to activate anything. It was okay. I used my partner Nancy's phone when I needed to, but the broken phone really was a major challenge for me.
This past Sunday (4/22/12)in the New York Times, there was an article titled "The Flight From Conversation" by Sherry Turkle about how texting has compromised the ability of many to have conversations. Yes, we talk to each other, but are we really there? We text while we talk, always one foot out the mental door to the next thing. We are able to edit ourselves, monitor what we share, even with the people we are closest to. Some of us text all the time. I do. A few weeks ago I had a friend over who I rarely see. She was texting intermittently while we talked in depth about our love lives, children, struggles, deep things. It was just weird! Last week in Belize, I was on a tiny little 10-person plane. It was a very short flight, a very small plane, with lots of water below. The pilot was texting!
Yesterday I went to get a replacement phone. The woman at the Verizon store told me that I use very few talking minutes, but LOTS of texts. She confirmed what I already knew. I'd rather organize my thoughts and present them as I want them to be heard, rather than pick up the phone and talk. After I got my new phone, I went to work, but you can bet I checked my phone about 12 times on the way (in the car). Later in the afternoon, I had to make a difficult phone call. I would have emailed, but I didn't have the person's email. I was hoping that it would just be a voicemail, but she answered. Completely disarmed, I just said what I had to say. Much harder than texting or emailing, but cleaner too. Immediate results.
I was basically without a phone for less than a week, but I noticed such a difference. At breakfast with Lucia, I wasn't constantly checking the time on my phone to make sure we were on track to get to school on time. I just trusted that five more painstaking minutes with the slowest eater in the world would be fine. When we were stuck in traffic on the way to Lucia's soccer game, I couldn't call to tell anyone that the goalie would be late. I couldn't look on my phone to see what all this bullshit traffic was about. I just sat there talking about how the bee in the bee movie Lucia had recently seen called his butt "his heaving buttocks." I was so much more present!
This has all been said. It's the talk of the era. Google glasses are next. We'll been seeing screens as we walk down the street. Or the automatic car that drives for us so we can do texting, emailing, Photoshop, marketing analysis.....Sherry Turkle, in her New York Times Article, says, "We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely."
Ms.Turkle makes a great point. The phone and the constant connection it represents is a false connection. The real connection comes from talking to or being with another person. Or it comes from being connected to yourself by being alone with yourself and appreciating that. Not waiting for the next thing. Not being part-way in the current thing.
I love my new phone. It does amazing, cool, efficient things. It's going to be hard, but I'm going to find some phone-free spaces in my life. If I start to slip, I hope you'll remind me. Just send me a text.