Someone said to me a while back, pointing at the iPhone in my hand, “you don’t need a brain when you’ve got one of those”. Why do you need to think, to mull things over, to hypothesise and debate when you can just cheat and Google? I disagree, in fact it’s having a brain and seeking out information that makes me adore my gadgets. I definitely can’t carry a full set of encyclopaedia in my rucksack. Stephen Hawking is too busy, I expect, to follow me around answering my questions. I need to satisfy my curiosity on all manner of subjects, to feed my brain. As the great Johnny 5 once said “need input”.
Since having my children and being at home full-time, my iPhone has become somewhat of a lifeline. I don’t use it to anaesthetise my mind with “Candy Crush” games, it’s used primarily to keep my head alive.
Through selected social media, news and websites, I feel aware of the world and how it has continued while my life’s changed beyond recognition. It’s kept me company in the dark, long hours of night feeds. I adore Twitter. People say “I just don’t get it”. I didn’t at first. But after much tweaking and changing, my timeline is now a list of people whose thoughts I respect and am challenged by, writers, artists, a few people who have become friends in real life, a strong local community, humour, intelligence, those who make me snort with laughter just when I need it.’
So, you can imagine the shock when faced with a week of shut down. As I parked the car outside our holiday home, I reached over to switch off the iPhone sat nav (another use!) and there it was. Or there it wasn’t, should I say. Nothing. Not a sausage. No reception, no wifi, no 3G. Dead. My husband soon realised the same and looked at me hopefully, just as the final football matches of the season were kicking off, “you must be able to get something?”.
We live in a time of breaking news, real-time coverage, information overload. Smartphone addiction is, to use the parlance of social media, “a thing”. Twitter and the wider internet have changed everything. We don’t wait up for the 10 o’clock news anymore. We don’t find out who died from obituaries. We don’t queue outside record stores to buy a new album on release day. It’s all there at the touch of a screen. Newspapers are still a wonderful way to read in-depth reporting, opinion, interviews. But we rarely discover news for the first time in print. We probably knew about it as it was happening.
Faced with this total unplugging of technology, we shuffled around nervously. Pretended that it didn’t really matter, that we were totally ok with it. But having a quick check when nobody was looking. Had someone switched something on? Anyone? Hellooooooo? Nothing.
We were hit with a shocking truth. To find out where to go and what to do on this holiday week, we’d have to take radical action. We’d have to talk to people. Like in the olden days when the first thing you did on arrival somewhere was to check out the tourist information centre and pick up lots of leaflets (only one step on from cave drawings). My husband went the most retro of us all. He found out the football scores by buying a newspaper THE NEXT DAY! Can you imagine? We were living in the dark ages!
We took risks. With 4 adults and 2 children in the car, all expecting a good day out, we could no longer rely on the iPhone voice to guide our path. We used…..*gulp*…..a map. And, you know what? We arrived!
We abandoned Google and discussed things. We used each other’s strengths to solve problems, we’d have made an awesome pub quiz team. We parked in a lay by on the information superhighway and got our deck chairs out.
Part of me was suffering severe FOMO (“fear of missing out” if you’re living under a rock). What if something happened on twitter and I didn’t see? Some news? A baby announcement? Celebrity death? Natural disaster? What really went on with Kieran and Katie?
As the week went on, I realised that actually I don’t really need to know. Or care. If a nuclear bomb went off, I’d probably hear about it. Unless it hit Southwold, in which case, well, I’d be dead.
It’s taught me that actually, it’s ok to go back to basics. I’ve got a perfectly decent brain that, would you believe, still functions all by itself and without a white Apple cable plugged into the power socket.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m now cleansed of technology, that I now prefer tree carvings and watching the clouds. I adore my gadgets and everything that they give me. It’s just nice to know that life, real life, still exists outside this tiny screen. A valuable lesson can be learned by switching it all off sometimes.
It didn’t take long to get back online though. A trip into London last week saw me glance at my iPhone and my jaw dropped. An icon in the corner said “4G”. I’d never seen it before. I tried to play it cool, to remember that just a week before I’d been free of all of this. I was acting all blasé, “oh yeah, look, 4G, it’s meant to be really fast or something” When nobody was looking I was gleefully waving my iPhone around like a light sabre.
So, as I sit here, tapping this out on my WordPress app, I can safely say that I feel more whole when I’ve got all of this knowledge at my finger tips. Maybe I need to go on a retreat? An iPhone detox? To let go of my Johnny 5 speed reading skills and just be.
I’ll find a way. I’ll Google it.