I made a conscious choice last weekend to stay offline. Between the four of us we had four phones and a laptop so it was possible to check FB and answer email, but I chose to wait until we returned home. If we had planned to be gone a week or more I would have made a different decision, but three days offline seemed like a good idea. We all need a break from our social network from time to time. You will note, however, that I didn’t leave my phone at home. And I made sure it was charged. “Off” is one thing…unusable is quite another. Like everyone else, I like knowing I have a phone if I need to call someone.
Ironically one of the things I enjoyed about traveling when I was a child was the idea that no one could find us. I’m not sure why that intrigued me so much, but I realized quite early that when we were traveling our friends and family members didn’t know more than our general route. It made any trip seem like a grand adventure! I don’t remember ever being frightened about being lost or hurt. There were plenty of other travelers out and about and we routinely saw patrol cars. We had a few breakdowns and flat tires over the years, but somehow everything always turned out okay. I suppose my parents’ perspective on those times was quite different from mine. They had to fix things; I only had to play on the side of the road and pick flowers until they had done so.
During the early years of our marriage Gary and I were often separated from our family while we climbed mountains and raced cars and camped on the beach. Sometimes the children went with us and sometimes they stayed with my grandmother. It never occurred to us to really worry about being out of touch. There were pay phones everywhere, even at the base camps of some wilderness areas. Every gas station and motel and corner grocery store had a pay phone. Communication wasn’t instant, but it was often possible, and “check points” could be established for safety. We usually called home every night so someone knew we were still alive. If we climbed for several days we made sure someone nearby expected us home at a certain time. We never went on a dangerous hike without another couple, but we did spend time exploring alone. We once spent four days in the wilderness without ever seeing another person!
Looking back, I suppose we took our chances with safety, but then again, everyone did. Nowadays people don’t want to work in their yard without a phone. Some people don’t even go to the bathroom without them- I know because I have heard far too many bathroom stall conversations in restaurants and at Walmart! Are they important conversations? No. Are they emergencies? No.
When I see dozens of people around me with phones stuck to their ears it makes me wonder what they have to say that is so important that it can’t wait until a more relaxed, private time. Everyone seems so distracted and oblivious to their surroundings while they are talking to that little box. I once witnessed a woman go through the whole process of checking out her groceries at Walmart without speaking to anyone except the person on her phone. She barely nodded to the clerk. And the entire phone conversation was just your standard, everyday chit-chat.
Of course now everyone also uses their phone for apps and games and searching the internet and updating their FB status. I recently watched a man play games on his phone while his family finished eating dinner at a local restaurant. His kids were chatting about recent activities and he hardly said a word. I routinely witness parents handing their phones to toddlers so they will be entertained while the adults shop. Kids pick up phones or other devices the moment they get into their cars after school. People constantly consult their phones for information. There are a million and one reasons to never let your phone leave your hand!
Well, I’m here to tell you there is one reason to leave it in my purse, turned off: because I don’t want to use it. And as long as I still have choices, that’s mine.
BTW- Did you know that if your phone is on while you are shopping that many stores can track your shopping habits, purchases, etc. and use the information to design displays, change product arrangements, and figure out how to entice you to spend more money? Yep. All connected to the store’s video surveillance system. I saw a fascinating news program about it.