In 2015, I gave my ancient Iphone 3 (yes, these things still exist) to my sister, adding up to a long list of hand-me-downs she’d received from her big sister over the years which left me with a red 20-dollar Nokia phone.
This decision was prompted one ordinary afternoon, when I caught myself instead of enjoying the fresh scent of money tree in my school’s garden after a fresh afternoon rain, I was instead, busy replying to Instagram comments about that same garden.
One and a half year have passed, and here are the things I’ve learnt so far from roaming the outside world without a smartphone:
- You feel much much lighter when you go out: I don’t know about you, but I usually feel quite anxious and pressured when there’s a chance, however slim, of people sending me urgent messages. Of course, I didn’t go completely off the line, I still had my normal Nokia phone (which is amazing), but the fact is that, people are more reluctant to send not-so-important messages to your number which means you have less chance of being interrupted (rudely) by those annoying ping ping just to be updated of a classmate’s breakfast picture.
- The less frequently you reply, the less people chat to you: this seems pretty obvious in hindsight, but when you’re caught up in the whirlwind of inbox messages, it might seem like the whole burden of the world is resting on your shoulders. You might feel like if you don’t reply that one freaking message, their whole life will be in ruins. I’ve learnt that after people go through the initial shock of not getting an instant reply, they pretty much leave you alone until there’s something important to talk to you. Even then, if they have important things to say to you, they should know to contact your number.
- It can become very very inconvenient sometimes: of course, sometimes you can get quite frustrated, say, your boss just sent you a file, and you have no way of accessing it because you’re outside and without a device that can connect to the internet. It’s extremely frustrating especially if you are freelance worker like me who relies on the internet for work inquiries. However, I’ve managed to survive by informing my bosses that they should contact me through the phone. I don’t think they are very happy about that, but at least it’s not an impossible demand.
- Less photos: the thing about not having a smartphone is that unless you have a camera with you, you are not likely to be able to snap the interesting moments that are happening in your life! It used to upset me that I won’t have photos from a wonderful hangout or a beautiful concert to post on social media later. However, I’ve grown to appreciate the fact that I have a wonderful hangout or a beautiful concert in my memory in the first place. It works well for me too since I’m more inclined to use writing as a way to immortalize my experience rather than a photo. However, I also remember to bring my camera with me if I have plans to capture shots.
- There’s a sense of security especially if you live in a theft infested city like Phnom Penh. Frequent cases of phone robbery are a norm, and so, without a smart phone, you feel much safer going out, and receiving calls in public.
- Short trips abroad suck without a smartphone: seriously, I’ve gone on a solo trip before with nothing but a Wifi-iPad, and I found it hard to find places to go and things to do. Indeed, you can use the old face-to-face communication to find out more about the place, but if your trip is time sensitive, a smart phone with an internet connection is a very helpful device to have.
I guess the biggest lesson I’ve learnt from this is the sense of control I have over my life and present moment after I eliminated the time I spent on smart phones out of the equation. Of course, I know quitting smart phone cold-turkey is a little bit extreme. You might argue that learning to control it is a better option, and that’s true. But for people who have been trapped in one side of the scale for too long, maybe going to the extreme opposite side is the best option in bringing a new perspective into their sense of balance.