24 hours spent in reality

A few lessons, realization, tips, tools and tricks from spending Friday evening and all-day Saturday without my tech gadgets.

  1. I love my smartphone. I love GPS. I love my music apps- Hoopla and Apple Music. I love looking up the weather and knowing before it’s too late. I LOVE THE UBER APP— more on this later. I love iMessage and trying to beat the text bubble appearing before my punch line. And I love brain-dumping in my Notes app. That’s about what my dumb-smartphone can do.
  1. Yet, I can leave the house without my phone and be completely okay. I don’t need it. It’s just nice to have.
  1. Although having GPS is always preferable, with public transportation, I can easily get around the city without the help of digital navigation tools. Things that help: Knowing how to get to every train station within the city, solid understanding of how the bus and streetcar system works, and knowing how to find information— lots, and lots, and lots of information for routes, directions and schedules are still available at stations and bus stops, but the phone requires less effort.
  1. If all fails, identify the person that seems the least rushed and the most friendly and ask for help with directions. People are so kind and helpful. Even in Toronto where #1 public etiquette and safety protocol is “do not make eye contact, do not make eye contact, do not make eye contact,” strangers are often more than happy to help you find your way home if you ask nicely. Make eye contact, smile warmly and ask, ‘hey, sorry, do you know how…’ (We do say sorry a lot. SO WHAT.)
  1. Listening to music on your commute is one of life’s absolute simple and best pleasures. Without access to that, I rap in my head random Nicki Minaj songs. Only Nicki Minaj songs. I needed to hype myself, I think? I did feel a bit naked without my phone on me, and surrounded by people, noise, and traffic, I must have needed bad-bitch anthems to keep me company.
  1. I finally manage to be on time because I’m freaked out about not having my phone to update my friends about my lateness. Of course, everyone else decides to be late, and it’s a lovely experience to be alone at a cozy, almost-empty dive bar. With no way to tell time and no way to text my friends to hurry up, I enjoy the mood of the space, my drink, passively listening to the bits and parts of random conversations around me, and wait. Patience comes from surrender.
  1. It helps to carry a piece of paper and pen to write down random thoughts that come to mind. The bartender brings me an extra candle, “so you can see better,” she says. I’m reminded of the kindness and care of people, even in this cold city. I’m happy.
  1. You don’t need a phone when you are in good company. We spend 5+ hours in that same bar drinking and talking. We stay past midnight. We stay past the snow, past the lightning- “Did you see that?!?!”- past the snowstorm warnings my friends look up on their phones. We have a lot more to say; we will deal with the misery of commuting home in a snowstorm later. I’m wearing heels, but I choose to ignore this fact too.
  1. Here and there, I instinctively reach for my phone in my purse, only to be reminded it’s not there. It doesn’t bother me: I go back to our conversation.
  1. Have you ever walked a mile in a blizzard wearing heels, past 1 in the morning, alone with no phone? I have. It’s exhilarating: Dangerous, sure, perhaps- whatever, mom– but definitely thrilling, reviving, exhilarating. Something about fresh fallen snow, and that total bliss of a quiet, snowy night, where anything is possible. After fear is freedom.
  1. In my defense, I had no choice. Due to the snowstorm, the bus was super delayed, and I COULDN’T CALL UBER. I have never felt more grateful for an app and my smartphone than in that very moment. Even if I didn’t have it then, I felt gratitude for having the choice, of having a smartphone, of having the Uber app, and of having the financial ability to afford a ride. I wondered if everyone waiting with me had that choice too.
  1. It was very difficult getting home that night, after a night of drinking and good company, and my boots barely surviving the piles of snow I trekked through, to an empty place and no digital pacifier to quiet the deafening silence. Usually, I write time spent offline. I get in bed and pass out.
  1. Saturday felt like another ordinary Saturday. I love my weekend routine, whether on or offline! I barely noticed not having access to my phone and laptop as I woke up late as usual, got ready for my noon workout class, commute there and back home, showered and ate, and got ready to leave for a meetup group mid-afternoon. (It was about digital minimalism and quitting social media!) I only missed music on my commute, music for dancing while making food and getting ready, and checking my texts and emails to ease the weariness of the mundane.
  1. Analog GPS is so much fun! Of course, I used Google Maps to write down directions, but that’s not the point. It’s a lot of fun to be at the mercy of your own attention to get around; more alert, you notice more. It was a great idea to jot down landmarks and Krispy Kreme definitely put me on the right path to the coffee shop.
  1. It feels naughty and mischievous to be ourtside without my phone, like I’m doing something I should not be doing, but it won’t cause anyone harm so I do it anyway.
  1. After the meetup group, right on time to break my digital fast, instead of rushing home to be with my beloved phone and laptop, I’m having too much fun and decide to go get my nails done and visit my parents since they live close to the nail shop. The internet has become my last resort to pass the time; anything but the internet, please.
  1. Of course, I need to find out if my parents are home. I shamelessly ask if I can use their landline at the nail shop: “What kind of charger do you need?” “Oh, um, I don’t have my phone on me,” and she hands me this ancient-looking phone and I call the one and only phone number I have memorized: My mom’s. This fills me with joy. Maybe I will memorize a few more phone numbers just to experience delight at recalling them.
  1. I didn’t get home until past midnight that night either. I spent the evening watching cooking shows at my parents’ and perfecting my banter with my dad; and when that got boring, I went on his phone for much deserved digital dopamine boost- I’m human after all. I don’t remember what text/call notifications were on my phone when I got to it, or how many new emails arrived in my inbox in my absence. What I do remember and could confidently say is that I missed nothing urgent, nothing that couldn’t have waited 24 hours.
  1. Spending a chunk of time away from these “digital necessities” is a good way to find out exactly to what extent they are useful to our day-to-day lives, and at the same time realize it’s still possible to survive a day or two without their assistance. See point #1 & #2
  1. Remember: All advice is autobiographical. YMMV: Your mileage may vary. Feel free to break the rules. Make the life YOU want.

Until next time,

Sign up for my curated weekly newsletter, time spent offline, on spending less time online and (re)discovering the pleasures of the offline world. Five ideas delivered right to your inbox. Every Tuesday.

Published by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s