…it may not be a real word but you know it must exist. Addiction to the digital world. I recently smashed my handset, a smartphone from HTC. The maker is irrelevant to the story but it is a reflection of the level of addiction in this circle that we have created that we know and rank phones by brand and model.
I smashed the screen, smashed it badly, hard and terminally. With a touch screen phone, that is death.There is no other way to describe it. Touch screens by nature need a viable screen as a user interface. There are no other access avenues. Once the screen has gone, you cannot text people to let them know, tweet, facebook or call. That’s when the sudden realization that you connect with a cyber world, your world,so constantly that you start to panic when you can no longer do so.
My sudden moment happened at lunch when I was at home. Going back to work I knew I might be late but I couldn’t call or text to let them know. At work I had to let my boss know because I am a key holder for the building out of hours. I am a manager so my staff need to contact me if they are going to be late or off sick. My mum lives alone now so she will call or text if she has a problem but mainly, wrongly, I immediately missed not being able to check on Twitter to see what people were saying, look for new pictures on Tumblr or see if anyone had ‘liked’ my photographs on Streamzoo. I was literally twitchy. I didn’t know where to put my hands. I was so suddenly bored I couldn’t handle it. I was uncomfortable. Restless and trying my very hardest to not be irritable. I found jobs to do,walked around the store I work in. Found myself checking my watch, not my phone, for the time far too often.
Then it got bad.
I text some people regularly. When I say regularly I mean conversationally, most of the day. Hourly in some cases. Sometimes when I know they will be in a meeting or driving , I leave it until I hear but then the flood gate opens and we can be talking via text for hours about trivia. Anything. Family, work, colleagues and T.V. When you suddenly can’t contact them, your heart starts pounding and your hands get sweaty. The same as any addiction, you panic when your fix disappears.
Then the texts came in.
My home screen displays an icon when a message comes in. The text content scrolls across the top of the screen.
So I can see someone is trying to contact me. I can see briefly what is being said but I can do absolutely nothing. I could look up the contact number and call from a land line, if the screen wasn’t broken. Or I could text from a friends phone if I could access the number. But I can’t. I could tweet an let them and anyone else know, if I could access the screen.
But I can’t.
It was painful. Terrifying. The withdrawal from the digital age for a matter of hours was physically and mentally punishing.
It shouldn’t be.
It is an addiction. When my wife and I went away to a quaint cottage for our wedding anniversary, I’m ashamed to say it was mid week before I finally put down the phone and resisted tweeting my non highlights of the visit. It didn’t spoil the week but I admit it didn’t help make the experience as relaxing or fun as it very much should have been. I know many people who tweet from work, as part of their job or just because they are self employed and find it non invasive or even helpful depending on the type of job. Many more only communicate when they get home, and many are housebound or home makers or unemployed an tweet as and when , day or night. But some , like me, tweet all the time via any device. At home I’ve been known to tweet or message from my phone when I leave the laptop to answer a call of nature or simply put the kettle on.
Having this withdrawn for just a few hours was a struggle but going to bed an not plugging the smartphone in for charging overnight felt weird. Waking up and getting dressed then reaching for my phone was again peculiar.
In the end, after checking insurance excess, repair costs an replacement prices I have purchased a temporary standard handset. It allows me to text and call. No more, no less.
It has no apps.
It has no internet.
It doesn’t even have a camera.
It does however have an FM radio. Something I always look for in a phone because I like to listen to the radio when I am on my own. That was a nice bonus. A way to sugar the pill. The phone is a fine and workable item which, when I finally qualify for my free contracted upgrade, will be come the standby emergency phone for the family.
Until then I am on a self imposed and needed hiatus from constant communication. I am disconnected until the evening. I am imposing my own unavoidable time limitations. It will, I’m sure, reap benefits to my home life and marriage but I know it’s going to be difficult!