An empty pocket
UB student goes a week without his cell phone
Last Sunday, I made a decision that would boggle the mind of even the least tech-dependent person out there.
I willingly gave up my cell phone for one week.
To start the week off, I missed my first class because I didn’t know how to use my alarm clock. I’d always depended on my phone to wake me up. This was going to be a long week.
Before even leaving the room, I bumped into a second problem: weather. I didn’t know whether it was really cold or extremely cold. Either way, I’d wear a jacket but it felt strange not being able to specify how cold it was exactly when I complained to everyone around me.
I went through the first day constantly reaching into my pocket to pull out my phone. I was reminded of the “phantom limb” that amputees experience where they feel missing limbs as if they were actually there. The “phantom phone” continued until around the fourth day. It was funny at first; then it became kind of sad – then frustrating – then funny.
Walking around campus without any music was odd. My ears were open to all the sound around me and it felt like I was on a different campus. I was certainly more aware of my surroundings, but still found myself humming a song to fill the void.
Not having a phone in general took away my go-to method of avoiding people – staring at Twitter. I would make eye contact with people and not have any legitimate reason to not talk to them.
On the first evening, I felt lonely. My roommates were all out and I had no way of talking to anyone. It was more the inability to talk to anyone rather than being alone that made me feel so lonely. It was constricting and unnerving. I’m used to just texting someone and meeting up with them for food, but now it was just me.
Just before this mild existential crisis could come to full fruition, my roommate came back and everything was back to normal. In fact, I was excited to see him.
The lack of constant contact with everyone I know led to a surprising plus. I was much more excited to hang out with people and to bump into people randomly. I felt happier being around my friends, appreciating human presence more than ever.
When I was around people, one thing that did bother me was how often they would whip out their phone. My default reaction when someone takes out their phone is for me to also take out my phone, but this week I would just awkwardly look around the room until they were done. Some friends would laugh about how awkward the situation was – others didn’t even notice. They were so wrapped up in themselves and in their own phones that they didn’t notice the person five feet in front of them.
My girlfriend was visiting this week from Long Island. She romantically decided to not tell me exactly when she was coming to surprise me. This led to me having to tell her my exact plans for the entire day in gross detail each morning through Facebook message so she’d know where to find me. I was constantly worried that she’d come and not know where I was and not be able to find me because I didn’t have a phone.
In the end, she showed up at my dorm Tuesday evening with no problems. I realized, however, that I used texting to ease anxiety about planning far too often. I remembered the pre-cell phone days of my life where I’d just show up at a friend’s house and ask if they wanted to hang out. Plans we made three days before didn’t have to be reconfirmed again and everything was just a little simpler. They were nice times and it’s a shame we can’t go back to them.
It is easy for me to be idealistic about the whole thing. “Everyone should just give up their phones,” I foolishly thought. Unfortunately, we need our cell phones. I was constantly out of contact with family, The Spectrum, professors, the world and that stupid blue and black dress. Our modern society needs to be in constant contact to function.
Maybe, however, we shouldn’t be in so much constant contact.
Texting, Twitter and Facebook give the illusion of actual discussion and contact, but this seems superficial. We should all do more to call and actually meet up. We should all listen when we talk to each other, we should all keep our phones in our pockets. We can all do more to connect.
That being said, it is so lovely to feel a phone in my pocket again.
Daniel McKeon is a features desk editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org