My name is Fiona and I have a confession, I am addicted to my phone. I am a compulsive phone checker, thumb swiping, button clicker. I make this admission publically because it has to stop. I am outing myself as an over avid phone watcher because I fear that it is consuming my life.
My pulse races as I rush to answer a call, it blinks Dad back at me. I restlessly refresh my email, a click and a whoosh and in they fly through my virtual letterbox and land at my feet with a bleep. John Lewis is having a sale, Clarks have 20% off, my Dad has sent me an eCard or forwarded me a cartoon Rabbi singing a Yiddish song. My heart quickens at the beep-beep of an incoming text (also my Dad) and my agile fingers effortlessly type a reply in seconds. Refresh and refresh again, I want more.
Disappointed, I scroll along Facebook, whose birthday is it today. Where have they checked in? Twitter, The Daily Mail.com. It’s not enough to look out the window, I touch The Met Office App, to confirm the temperature. Recheck, I must have more. I carry my phone with me, cradling it in my palm. It slides into my back pocket ready to whip out like a pistol loaded for continual checking. It accompanies me to the bathroom and lies next to my bed. I wait for it to light up and if it doesn’t I bite my needy knuckles and tap tap until something appears. I am never without it, I cannot be without it. This has to stop.
Of course this is an exaggeration. I am not running an empire from my phone and I’m not addicted. But, I know also that I am certainly not alone. To a degree we all do this, we are all always logged on. Some would argue that this is a positive thing, that we are more communicative due to the very portable technology that keeps us in the loop, even on the loo. Do we always need to have our fingers on the perpetual pulse of each other’s lives? Have we let our phones swallow up our capacity to communicate normally, even verbally? I can’t remember the last time I had a chat on the phone to a friend (and not just to my Dad). We exchange texts back and forth like tennis balls in the grand slam of how are yous and let’s get togethers. And what is worse, when we do meet up, kids playing and us tea drinking, we still steal a glance at our devices, only a little peak, a quick check, just in case there is that catastrophic nightmare scenario, whereby we miss something essential.
I know you do it too. I have seen you. I have proof.
I sat in the children’s service at shul on Yom Kippur and the Dad next to me asked if I wanted to play a game. I raised my eyebrow conspiratorially and bid him to go on. His game was to spot the hidden mobile phone. So, there we were singing about the Ten Commandments and playing at being spies. I searched the circle of parents for the offender, the sinner within our midst. My unsuccessful spy skills were not as honed as this seasoned spot-the-phone-at-shul-pro. I threw in the towel and asked him to nicely point out the culprit and as he did, I saw for myself, the criminal take a shifty sideways glimpse at his phone. My mouth opened aghast in horror, for even I managed to leave my phone at home. Maybe he was tweeting: In Shul #hungry. It’s not just at Shul, it’s in the cinema, at the park, at birthday parties, whilst driving the school run. Thank you for kindly updating us mid journey of impending blocked roads and temporary traffic lights.
Do we really want to hide behind an electronic device as a means of chronicling our lives and communicating to the people within it? Do we really need to update the world about our children’s every achievement and runny nose? Or, be in incessant contact with everyone we have ever known day (or night)? Actually, we do not. Let’s unsubscribe, sign out, shut down and reconnect with each other, lay down our phones and back away.
I set myself the ultimate experiment. I relinquish my phone and imprison it within a drawer. Set it to silent and pretend it does not exist. How long can I survive, how long can I cope not being connected? Freedom fills me, lightness becomes me and then I hear a gentle hum, it entices me. I resist. It hums again. I cannot stop myself, the drawer opens, just one final last infinitesimal look (it’s my Dad).