POLL: A week without your mobile phone - the ultimate modern challenge

THOSE with long memories and musical taste will remember a song from the '90s, Detachable Penis, by a band called King Missile. I’ve always thought of it as a parody of our use of mobile phones, a gentle dig at our reliance on the ubiquitous device.

So I’ve come up with an idea for a story, ‘My week without my iPhone’, to find out just how reliant I have become on my mobile.

I start preparations a few days beforehand, telling nearest and dearest to call me on the home phone (yes I have one) or email me. I re-learn how to use my alarm clock and leave a message on the mobile, ’’If you need to reach me call my landline or email me’’, giving the details. I realise I will have to wear a watch.

On the evening before the challenge starts, my mate Sam texts: “You have three hours to consume as much as you can on your phone. May the force be with you.” Then I have to text her my landline. She’s never needed it before.

Other friends say I’m brave for committing to this and they don’t think they could last a full week without their phone. Are we really that dependent on them?

These are the agreed rules, after consultation with those closest. Hand over my iPhone and iPad to my mum for the week. No phone also means no iPad. (A bummer as I now read heaps of books on my iPad. This week my only books will be hard copy. You can’t touch a word for a definition. Major downfall.)  Turn Messenger off on the computer. No social media. The only form of communication will be email and landline.

On the first day my usual routine of get up, have coffee, check social media is replaced by get up, have coffee, go outside and listen to the birds. Nice. I usually check the surf conditions on my phone but this week it will have to be my laptop.

It becomes an extremely quiet week. My phone generally rings off the hook. I wonder what everyone’s up to on Facebook. But I don’t peek. (In fact, nothing of note has happened when I check Facebook at the end of the week.) I miss the text banter that goes on between me and my family and friends during the day. I wonder what they’re doing.

I start to feel decidedly disconnected and consider actually picking up the landline and ringing someone for a chat. But who wants to talk on the phone any more when you’ve got text and social media? I can’t think of anyone; the phone’s seen as an intrusion.

The upside of the challenge is that my life feels less frenetic. I don’t check my phone every five seconds. I just do jobs and tasks one at a time, rather than darting between chores. I don’t check my work email on my iPhone or iPad obsessively outside work hours just because they are next to me. I start to think I could actually do without my phone. We have so many other communication options, is it really that essential?

But I hit a snag when I realise I can’t use my phone as an external modem when I’m away from the office. I’ll have to be completely off the grid. Scary. Then I  have to look up the location of a meeting on my laptop before I leave the office, rather than just use my phone to find it when I’m close by.

"I start to think I could actually do without my phone. We have so many other communication options, is it really that essential?"

As the challenge progresses, frankly it becomes problematic and painful. As I can’t use my iPhone as an external modem, I have to go back to the office to check mail before going out again. Completely inefficient and I’m tempted to end the challenge. But I don’t. Then I can’t find the location of my next meeting because I don’t have my phone.

As the end of the challenge nears I count down the minutes until I can use my phone again. I recharge it to get ready.

I realise what a brilliant device it is - not just for making calls, but for finding places, taking and looking at photos, looking up the weather forecast, and so much more. It’s where I access emails; it’s how I stay in contact with friends and relatives. It connects me to the net wherever I am. It allows me to identify songs on the radio. I depend on it to do so many everyday tasks. 

The song I referred to at the start of this post made fun of mobiles. I suddenly recall that when they were first released, we thought people who used mobiles were tossers. It was the era of yuppies and `80s wealth. So much has changed since then. Now even little kids and people in extremely poor nations have mobile phones. 

I certainly won’t be repeating this challenge in a hurry and I don’t think I could have completed it during a busier time in the working year. If Steve Jobs were alive, I’d send him a thank you card.

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