I have a hardy history of intermittent phone-isolation having lost twenty-six in my phone-owner lifetime, (yes, that’s twenty-six phones lost for good, never to be found again), so when the mobile phone repair shop informed me my smartphone needed to be sent off for motherboard-surgery, which could take a week or more, I was blasé. ‘Pah!’ I scoffed, ‘a week is nothing – I am numb to the pain of phone loss.’
Whilst twenty-six is a lot of phones to lose, this habit came to a grinding halt in March 2013, the minute I became a mother. Admittedly the fact that I have been much less drunk much less often has helped this affliction but it’s also because – ever since I pushed that first small human out of my body – I’ve been welded to my phone like it’s my lifeline.
It wasn’t until I experienced my recent week of enforced phone-abstinence that I discovered it actually is my lifeline.
The first two days of being without a phone were euphoric. I felt rogue, emboldened – I became a productive, uninterrupted human being. (This is mainly because being without phone relieves you of lots and lots of chores.)
‘I’ll text you later with that number to call,’ my husband would say on his way to work in the morning.
‘Can’t,’ I’d reply, blowing him a kiss, ‘no phone.’
‘I call you later vis-à-vis that urgent piece of work,’ my boss would say.
‘Can’t, ‘I’d reply, ‘no phone.’
‘Can you organise the leaving present for year one?’ a school-gate mum asked.
‘Can’t’ I replied, ‘no phone.’
It was thrilling. A bona fide, justifiable, undeniable reason to do less.
Until day three, when I was at home with my two daughters and the world was lit up by the first shout of spring-sunshine.
‘Let’s ring our friends and go to the park for a picnic!’ they cheered.
‘Can’t,’ I said, ‘no phone … but we can go by ourselves. It will be just as much fun!’
It was nowhere near as much fun. All of us were bored, one of us shit her pants, one of us got stung by a wasp and the other one of us forgot to pack spare pants or a first aid kit.
The next morning at school drop off, all my friends were talking about the fabulous sunny day they had shared together and the online flash-fashion-sale they’d grabbed bargains at.
‘Where did you get your new tops from?’ I asked, lip wobbling from the smart of social-exclusion.
‘There was an amazing sale online, Soph sent round the sale code … um, we didn’t know how to get it to you … because you have …’
‘…no phone,’ I said, as glum as ET stuck on earth.
At home I became jumpy, antsy – what else was going on in my life that I didn’t know about? Had Jules given birth to her baby safely? Had my nephew passed his driving test? Were all my friends meeting up for brilliant, hilarious, legendary playdates that I would normally be a part of? Worse, I felt a familiar shadow lurking – depression. I was displaced, disjointed, discombobulated and finding it increasingly hard to enjoy my life. I talked to my husband about my fears.
‘I think depression is coming back.’
‘You just need your phone back,’ he replied, casually.
‘How dare you accuse me of such a shallow, materialistic affliction. I am the woman who has lost twenty-six mobile phones. I can do this!’ I said, and went to bed.
The very next day, my phone was ready. I walked to that phone shop like a woman taking her last walk to freedom and the minute moment that phone was placed in the palm of my hand, darkness lifted and life filled me up again: I binged on WhatsApp chat, I hurt my wrists from texting everyone I knew to announce my return and then I relaxed, knowing that if I felt lonely, or bored, or excited, I could get in touch with the people in my life that mattered and immediately share that moment with them. How brilliant is that? How lucky we are. Imagine if Tom Hanks could have texted Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle to say, ‘Hang 10, I’ll be there,’ all that tragedy avoided.
It just goes to show that it’s not the social media that we are welded to, it’s our friends and family – near, far, real or virtual – and knowing how they are and what they’re up to. If the age we live in means it’s a smartphone that helps us do that then I’m down with that.
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