How I survived five days without my phone

Losing my phone has always been one of my greatest fears and two weeks ago it became a reality. Granted, I was lucky because I left it at my girlfriend’s house in Montreal and not in some taxi after a night of partying. But not having it made me come to terms with the fact that my phone was a larger part of my life than I would have liked.

I first noticed that I had left my phone at my girlfriend’s house when I was at the bus terminal. I was shocked that I didn’t realize that it was missing before then. “How did I not check my pockets in the car?,” I asked myself.

I didn’t think I would be too helpless without it considering I had an iPad and a laptop at home.
I could receive messages and phone calls with my iPad as long as I had Wi-Fi. But then there was the issue of listening to music. Sure my tablet can hold music but I couldn’t fit it into my pocket. I also didn’t want to be holding it while walking, not in this bone-achingly-cold weather.

Alfaro says it's safe to say most of us are addicted to our phones. (Courtesy of Nadya Domingo/Ryersonian Staff)

Alfaro says it’s safe to say most of us are addicted to our phones. (Courtesy of Kevin Alfaro/Ryersonian Staff)

I know what you’re thinking: First World problems. But my phone is an extension of my identity. I felt like I was walking around without a limb. I would see others pulling out their phones and texting and a poignant jealousy took over me.

Going out to eat didn’t feel the same either. “This meal looks amazing,” I would tell myself. “I have to Instagram it.” As I’d reach into my coat pocket, I would be reminded that there was no phone in there and that this lovely meal would go undocumented.

The funny thing is that I lived without technology for a long time. I didn’t have a cellphone until I was in high school and it was a flip-phone with limited capabilities that I shared with my mom and my sister. It was more of an ‘in case of emergency break glass’ type phone. It wasn’t until four years ago that I would get my first real phone: an iPhone 4. Like a kid with a new toy, I found myself using it for hours on end.

My phone became my go-to for listening to music, watching videos, surfing, and everything in between.

After three years with it — I got it back when three-year contracts were still a thing — and a couple of tablets and laptops later, I finally upgraded last year to the new iPhone 6. My old phone had become slow and I had relegated it to purely answering calls, texting and casual surfing during my commute. I felt I needed to get a new one. When I got it, I got into the same cycle with it that I had had with my old one.

It was my new toy and I found myself on it even more than my last phone, especially because the new one had more storage space and could now fit hours upon hours of music and apps on it. Once again, I was addicted.

Talking to my parents about this, my mom said she doesn’t really like her phone. She got it because she wanted to pay less than she was paying for her iPhone plan.

But take away her iPad mini and maybe then she’d feel differently. My dad on the other hand was a little more honest saying that he remembered one time he forgot his phone in his locker at work and felt strange not having it with him while driving his truck.

My parents, along with millions of other baby boomers, are in a strange position because for so much of their lives, they got along just fine without cellphones.

Mobile phone technology didn’t become commercially available until the early 1980s and smartphones didn’t get big until the mid-2000s. My parents grew up in small rural communities where owning a television was a luxury very few could afford.

Alfaro says he now constantly checks his coat pockets to make sure he has his phone. (Courtesy of Kevin Alfaro)

Alfaro says he now constantly checks his coat pockets to make sure he has his phone. (Courtesy of Kevin Alfaro)

My mom was eight when she watched TV for the first time and she would have to go to a neighbour’s house to watch black and white telenovelas in the 1970s. Now she can watch pretty much whatever she wants
on her tablet and she doesn’t even have to leave her bed.

As you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering whether or not you’re addicted to your phone. You probably are and I think it’s safe to say most people are. There are quizzes and the like to find out if you’re addicted or not, but you don’t really need to take one of those to know the truth.

Our phones are safe havens from awkward social situations, from asking questions, to talking to people and I’m not sure there’s a tried and true way to put a stop to that.

Sure, I could attempt a technology cleanse, disconnect myself from the Internet for a week. But I doubt I would last. Even if I did, much like those fad diets and juice cleanses, after that week I would just go back to old habits like an alcoholic going back to the bottle.

The sad thing is that technology companies like Apple and Samsung are only looking for ways to make our phones do even more for us.

If you think about it, the impending Apple Watch is really all about making the things our phones can already do even more convenient by taking it out of our pockets and putting it onto our bodies.

When my girlfriend came to visit last week, I didn’t know if I was more excited to see her or my phone. Maybe a combination of both, considering we haven’t been going out for too long.

Whatever the case, I just knew it felt good to hold it in my hands again.

Those five days without it felt like an eternity.

Now, I make sure to cherish every moment I have with it, checking my coat pockets constantly to make sure it’s always with me.

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