This weekend, I took my phone to the Apple Store to get a new battery. I didn’t realize it going in, but I was required to hand over my phone for a 90 minute procedure, only to come back and find that they hadn’t been able to get the old battery out, and that they gave me a brand new phone, which was lovely.
In the meantime, though, I had to spend 90 minutes without any phone at all. It was one of the strangest experiences I’ve had in recent memory. To be totally out of communication with loved ones felt almost dangerous, as if something were going to happen and I would have no way of knowing about it. Multiple times during my phone detox I had a thought come to my head, reach into my pocket to verify or investigate, only to come to the realization that no, in fact, my phone wasn’t where it belonged.
The hour and a half came and went just fine, I got my new phone, and everything was right with the world. Yet, the experience of having to go through life without feeling connected to the world around me was unsettling, both because of the awareness of my dependence and because of my inability to do anything about it. It was especially troubling that this sense of being disconnected came at a shopping mall in November, surrounded by hundreds of other people.
Our phones have become our lifeline, our companions, our lens through which we view the world. I’m certainly not one of those people who believes that this is wrong or unhealthy; I think, within reason, it is a normal expression of modern living. But, it is when we lose the sense of context, lose our self awareness that our reliance on our digital appendages become prisons rather than tools.