For the last year I have been considering my mobile phone use, and I've come to a conclusion. I use it loads, but that's because its not a telephone - it's a computer. I almost hadn't noticed just how amazing my mobile phone had become - it just happened. I hate the way every time it beeps to tell me I have a message or an email I take it out of my pocket and stare at it, and then I waste another minute checking all the other things there are to check - what's happening on Instagram, a quick google to find out what the height of the worlds biggest tree is, what's the weather forecast for the next hour, any WhatsApp messages, etc, etc.....The insidious creep of technology into our lives via mobile phones has been pretty amazing, and how quickly our lives have been changed by these machines. Nobody is bored anymore, as if there is any down time (even spare seconds) in our world of over-stimulation and instant gratification, we all instinctively pull out our phones and retreat into the netherworld of the screen.
My phone does everything my desktop computer does, although it can take longer to do some tasks as the phone key pad is so small. I have a desktop computer, so why does my phone need to do it all too? The postman delivers mail to my house once a day, always has done. I do not sit under the letter box waiting for letters to arrive, and when they do write and post a reply back immediately. But when I get an email, my phone alerts me instantly, and then I read it and reply straight away if I feel I need to. I never used to do this.
If I need to go somewhere new, I look on the maps on my phone. My phone even tells me the best route, and talks me through the directions as I walk along gawping at the screen. If this is how we will navigate in the future, god help us if our phone runs out of charge, or a satellite drops out of orbit and our 4G connection fails.
And then there's the camera - an amazing piece of kit just waiting in our pockets to capture everything of any interest that ever happens, just so we can put the picture of our lovely tea/cat/view on social media.
Basically it's just become normal that we are on our phones all the time. Look around you next time you're on a train, or in a restaurant, or the pub. Everybody is using their phone. And our kids will use phones way more than we do, because we have made it acceptable. What example do I give my kids when they ask me a question, only to have me ignore them because I'm using my phone?
But we're not on the phone very much - as in 'making phone calls'. Our phones have got so good at pumping data into us, the only thing they're not good at is being a phone. My iPhone has dreadful reception because there is no space inside it any more for an adequate aerial. I work in a place where if I need to answer my phone I have to walk around the one spot in the car park where I get a weak signal - along with anybody else who has received a call at the same time. The walk of shame.
Modern phones use loads of power as they are constantly updating and hosing the internet into our lives. Ever wonder why the batteries only last a few hours, and your phone spends more time on charge than not?
I have spent more and more time pondering these things, and I have realised that something needed to have to change for me to try and set my kids a better example.
Last week I finally took the plunge. I bought a new phone that will permanently replace my iPhone (with its 128 Gigabyte memory, and constant internet access). My new phone is a dumb phone - it has not internet or data connection. It can only make and receive phone calls and text messages. No camera, no google, no sat nav, no emails, no torch, no nothing.
I'm not a Luddite - I like technology. But I also love living a happy and fulfilled life, and I am of the opinion that anything that steals my time away from doing real things and having real experiences is not for me. So my mobile phone will continue to be just that - just a phone. And my computer will continue to be a computer. The two things don't need to be the same, and I don't want a super computer in my pocket, tracking my movements and counting my steps.
I want to interact with the world I live in, and occasionally I like to get lost, and occasionally I like to see something amazing but just look at it closely and burn the memory into my brain rather than observe things through a box of circuitry. I don't need constant emails and internet access - if it's urgent just give us a ring, if its not then send an email and I'll look at it when I chose to sit at a computer and check my email.
This change has been a long time coming, but I'm pretty sure this is right for me. Time will tell, and I think it will be time spent more productively than before.