A Way to Live Life With(out) a Cell Phone
I graduated with a Bachelors and Masters degree in Civil Engineering back in the mid 90's and my first job out of college was with an environmental risk management company designing ground water remediation systems and landfills. I thought I hit the mother load by selecting a career focusing on the environment and more specifically, landfill design. After all, just like death is a guarantee in life and there will always be a need for morticians, using the same logic, I figured there will always be trash and therefore a need for landfills. And there it was, I had my life mapped out before me and guaranteed job security.
The problem was, after about a year, I learned I wasn't passionate about it, despite the prospects of people always throwing things out and there always being a need to put those things somewhere to rest.
I needed a career change.
The dot-com boom wasn't a thing yet, but as luck would have it, I had a friend from college who was on the fore-front of the information technology age who was very passionate about what he did, writing software. The pervasiveness of computers and technology in the work place was growing exponentially at that time and it was a no-brainer, there was potential to be had in software development.
Armed with a book in Visual Basic and another on how to build web sites, I jumped ship and started working for an internet consulting startup and as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Fast forward to 2018 and I've now enjoyed a very successful career in and around technology. I had found something I was passionate about and was able to find a way to get paid to play with cool things.
But as the seasons change throughout the year, I felt a change brewing inside of me. The same joy technology gave me through the years was starting to wane and I was become very despondent to technology.
But why? Was it that I became one of the masses addicted to getting a plethora of "likes" to my postings of my dogs on Instagram? It didn't feel like it, because I was more interested in following my favorite professional golfers than actually posting content. Was I vicariously living through the life of others perfect vacation photos of people sitting by the perfect pool at the perfect beach vacation spot? It didn't feel like it because I'd skip past those photos and go to the videos of various golfers and their golf swings.
As I searched for answers to my newly developed discontentment with technology, I listened to a Podcast titled "What Makes Your Phone So Addictive & How to Take Back Your Life" published by the Art of Manliness. That was about a week ago and what I learned in that podcast has altered the course of my life. Seriously, no exaggeration.
In the podcast, Adam Alter, author of the book "Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked" asserts that the reason why people are addicted to their mobile phones is not because of the search for more "likes", people are addicted to their phone due to it's proximity to the individual. He stated that over 70% of people have their cell phones within arms reach of them 24 hours a day.
Boom! A ton of bricks just landed on my head.
I was one of those 70%, and the source of my discontent was not in the software apps I was using on my iPhone, rather it was the fact that the damn thing is tied to my back pocket every waking moment. Every free moment I had, I was on it looking something up, scrolling through my Instagram and Twitter feeds, ordering pizza, or ordering something that I needed from Amazon. For shit sake, I even take the phone into the bathroom. I was never separated from it. I never took a break from the phone and as a result, a resentment toward technology grew in me like a tumor.
Armed with knowledge and my new drive for a simpler life, I devised a simple solution to my addiction, keep the phone out of arms reach as much as possible throughout the day.
What happened next can best be described as the feeling you would expect when being freed of an anchor tied around your neck for 20+ years. Simply by putting my cell phone in my computer satchel while in the office freed me of the addiction. Furthermore, simply by putting my cell phone in my bedroom when I'm home freed me of the addiction. No longer did I have the urge to be on my cell phone. The transformation was instantaneous. I started walking around with a new pep in my step. I started walking around feeling free. And get this, the same passion for technology I had back in the mid 90's returned! Yes, by eliminating technology from my every waking minute, I know have renewed passion for technology again.
And this brings me to the final chapter in this short narative. My job requires that I'm accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year because I work in technology as a DevOps manager supporting systems that are online 24x7 deployed in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia. So how is it that I'm staying connected without really being connected (after all my boss is most likely reading this post right now wondering the same thing).
Using technology of course! Through the miracles of tiny chips, you now have ability to have a cell phone built into your watch. Yes, I have an Apple Watch that receives emails, text messages, critical alerts, and phone calls so I'm able to stay completely plugged into my job without carrying a cell phone on me 24 hours a day. The watch on my wrist doesn't have the same anchor feeling that the cell phone has. Wearing it is natural and doesn't require me to think about technology, rather the technology is simply part of my wardrobe that gives me the access to the information I need and the access to others that I depend on.
I now feel I have found the balance between technology and technology free life. I am no longer burdened by a bulky phone in my back pocket, but still plugged in enough to be able to do my job effectively. The result is a new sense of well being. A healthiness that is inspiring me to take up things that I love to do like drawing and reading and taking pictures with my camera. I want to learn about technology again. I have found a new passion in learning about humanity and searching for deeper meaning in my life.
For those who think I'm being melodramatic with this, if you are one of the 70% mentioned above, I challenge you to find a way to eliminate your mobile phone from your presence and then get back to me after a week. I guarantee you will develop a new sense of being that will reinvigorate what you are passionate about.