7 Things I’m Learning Without A Smartphone

image - Flickr / Scott Beale
image – Flickr / Scott Beale

On Father’s Day, I woke up to my one-year-old son dropping my iPhone in the toilet. In that moment, my iPhone’s life (and mine!) flashed before my eyes. In that moment, I knew things would never be the same.

I remembered the first time I saw an iPhone. A friend of mine, consistently an early adopter, brought it over. It was a magical thing. I remembered the first iPhone I ever got. I was one of those people standing in line for hours at the flagship Apple store in midtown Manhattan. While I was in that line, I had thoughts about people in other countries and how they don’t stand in line. In Cairo, at the bus station, there’s never a line but rather a mob of people trying to buy a ticket. Over here, we form perfect lines for capitalism.

I remembered riding the B54 bus to Bed Stuy where I used to live and a boy looking over my shoulder and asking, “Mr. can I see your computer?” I remembered being in elementary school at PS 307 in 1983 when I typed my first lines of basic programming code.

I remembered the time I lost my iPhone. I was scheduled to fly to Kuala Lumpur. My flight was Washington – Chicago – Hong Kong – Kuala Lumpur. I was prevented from boarding in Chicago by the State Department for some bogus Homeland Security/NSA/post-9/11/Patriot Act reason. When I reached for my phone, it wasn’t there. I had left it on the plane that brought me to O’Hare from Dulles.

I remembered when water thwarted my iPhone before. I was on a call, cradling it between ear and shoulder while doing dishes. A slight head movement resulted in the phone submerging into dishwater. I was advised to put it in a bowl of uncooked rice. Five hours later, the phone turned on. Whew.

This time, after fishing my iPhone out of the toilet, after wanting to scold my baby boy but not being able to because he has dimples for days and a trillion dollar smile, I covered my phone with rice. This time, it’s been a week and no light. This time, I’m getting used to life without my iPhone.

Life without a phone has allowed me to reflect on everything I used it for: pictures, email, navigation, text, phone, and music. I also used it to check prayer times, search quick facts online, take notes in meetings, and record audio at lectures. Basically, I’ve been filtering my entire life through this one device.

Right now, I am stalling. I know I need to replace my iPhone soon, but for now, I’m taking time learning from this fast. Here are seven things that have become very clear in my phoneless world.

  1. When you don’t have a phone you’re the only one without a phone! Transferring to the 6 train at Broadway-Lafayette, I’m astonished by how many people are standing shoulder to shoulder on the platform, eyes glued to their devices. It is incredible to step outside of the Matrix. It is incredible to observe for once.
  1. Eye contact comes with less effort and less confusion. It’s much easier to have a conversation and stay focused during that conversation.
  1. Better posture comes from looking up. With no phone to look down at, I’m looking forward, looking up. My spinal column is straightening and I think I’m an inch taller. Sure, in this city that means I look like a tourist. But with my rolled up jeans, black t-shirt, and ragged Pumas, I hardly look like I’m in the city for the first time.
  1. Hearing turns into listening – really, really, listening. With my phone, I hear my kids. Without my phone, I listen to my kids. My sons are really cute. I am blessed. They are city kids through and through. We walk, we buy juice from the Juice Man on Fulton, and we go to the playground. With my phone, I can hear them playing. Without my phone, I can listen to them learning.
  1. People pity people without phones. In a moment of social experimentation, I asked people to use their phones at various times of the day. The looks I got said, “Why don’t you have a phone?” “You must not be able to afford one.” “You must be desperate to ask.”
  1. Pay phones steal your money. Even though there’s only like 5 left in the city, someone should look into a potential pay phone money theft scandal.
  1. We rely on our phones too much to tell time. With Ramadan coming up, the question of time is deeper than usual. When to start fasting, end fasting, and when each prayer comes in during the day are times to be monitored closely. Without a phone, I need to use more traditional means – a clock, the sun.

Someone said that after 21 days, I would be used to life without a phone. I have 12 days left. Will I make it in this world phoneless? Wait and see. TC mark

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