Today, having a phone is somewhat like having a limb. Admitting to a lack of phone ownership can be akin to admitting that you lack something vital, like a nose. Such a statement would be met with shock and perhaps a sympathetic expression.
Now this is not where I admit to not owning a phone. On the contrary, I have a lovely Nexus 4 smart phone in my possession which has been, for the most part, quite a functional little device. But here is where I confess to something else that may be regarded as shocking; recently I learnt of the joy that comes from switching off my dear, beloved smart phone.
This neat new skill was picked up whilst travelling at the end of last year. The censorship and surveillance program in China, colloquially referred to as the Great Firewall of China, blocks access to social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress and Instagram. Being the modern, hip young Communications student that I am, my life has been quite saturated with social media forums and online communication. Switching off did not come easily. But before I knew it, I had been clean for two days, and then seven, and then twelve and so forth until I returned from the trip. Interestingly, I moved beyond the mere social media disconnect. I began to switch off my phone for hours at a time. And I discovered something – the world did not end. There were no emergencies. There was a certain freedom in being uncontactable and thoroughly immersed in each moment.
I won’t deny that at certain points boredom did strike. But where I normally would have reached for my phone to browse Facebook, Reddit, Instagram or online news sites, I reached for books. It was glorious. Besides, let’s face it, sitting on the grass and watching clouds roll by can be a far more enjoyable experience than browsing through pictures of friend X’s brunch from eleven different angles.
Now that I am back home I still switch off, usually for around two to three hours at a time. While I still love to capture memories and participate in the guilty pleasure that is selfie-taking, I would definitely recommend taking on the challenge. Switch off – maybe not for an obscenely long duration like days at a time. But just two hours. Be unreachable. Be selfish. And enjoy the moment you are in.
By Jess Hay