Here's What I Think About That

Endless Distraction


It has been over a decade now, but I was a latecomer to join the smartphone scene. Nobody was going to turn me into one of those hapless fools that spend every waking moment staring at the little screen in their hand day and night.

By the time I purchased my first cell phone, smart phones were already available. The old coin-operated pay phones and phone booths were nearly extinct.

Fumbling with the absurdity of text messaging from a flip phone convinced me it was little more than a passing phase amongst teenagers and parents who not so secretly want to appear as hip and cool as their kids. It was impossible for me to grasp how anyone could consider texting “progress.”

Um, wouldn’t a quick phone call be easier than pressing corresponding numerals on a keypad to tediously churn out letters to spell “On my way home”?

My son had advice, “Keep it simple, Mom. Forget about punctuation. People will know what you mean without it. It’s easy.”

A world without punctuation? Perish the thought. People have a hard enough time deciphering the possible meaning and tone of emails. It is all too easy to misinterpret messages and then run with it.

I mentally mocked the people dumbly staring at their phones at crosswalks. I laughed over the notion that teenage girls were reportedly so obsessed with their phones that going without them, however briefly, caused real anxiety.

I kept my flip phone until I was the only person I knew who had one. Once I made the switch to an iPhone, I was sucked in bigger than life.

What was at first a wonderful convenience turned into a necessity and quickly became something I could not live without.

My family complained about how distracted I had become. “I just need to look up this one thing. I just need to wrap up this text exchange. I just need to …” It was endless.

I recognized and yet pushed aside any misgivings at how dependent I had become. I no longer needed to remember anything because I could just look it up. Some people confess they never have any idea where they are because their phones tell them when to merge and where to turn.

I used my phone for everything. It stored all my passwords, recorded my notes, held important health information and managed a full calendar to get me where I needed to be on time. It woke me up in the morning with an alarm and even nudged me to call it a night and go to sleep. It gave me an impressive camera that fit in my pocket. It made me available 24/7 to anyone who wanted to reach me. Some people silence their phones before bed, but not me. If someone calls after 10 p.m. it must be very important. I want to be available for those middle of the night emergencies when I am needed.

How many times had I thought to myself, “Heaven forbid anything happens to my phone, I’d be entirely lost without it.”

You know what happened next. It was in my lap in the car pinging away with text messages I refused to look at while driving. We made a quick stop and as I got out of the car for a minute, the phone must have slipped outside on the pavement. Twenty minutes down the road and it seemed odd that all the pinging stopped. That’s when it hit me.

In full on panic mode, I raced back to parking spot. The phone was gone. The shopkeeper said nobody had turned it in. To my dismay, I found that its internalized tracking devices had been turned off by whoever grabbed it.

It’s been a few days and I have yet to replace it. I instinctively reach for it all the time.

My phone worked less for me than I did for it. Constant digital connection was eating away at my real life and making me feel a little crazy.

Don’t get me wrong, I have every intention of replacing it. Someone even suggested a flip phone to truly reclaim my life. It’s a growing trend, particularly amongst young adults. They’re onto something.

As human beings we need to be connected but we also need down time, away from all the distractions vying for our attention. The pandemic showed me how important face-to-face contact and conversations are in real time.

That’s where I want to be. Here and now.