Monthly Archives: November 2013

Learning to Disconnect by Spending 24 Hours in the Wild

Smart phone addiction is a proven affliction. According to a study conducted at Nokia, users check their phones every six and half minutes, averaging 150 times per day.

There’s even a name for the fear of not having your smart phone: it is called nomophobia. In an age so dependent on technology, it is almost impossible to find someone without a phone in their hands. Even though phones are pulled out at the most inappropriate times, like church services and date nights, it has been proven that disconnecting on a regular basis is actually essential for your happiness and your mental and emotional well-being. During a recent camping trip, I thought I could spend 24 hours without my smart phone. I quickly discovered that it is not as easy as it seems.

hiker relaxing on mountain lake

The first thing I did when I arrived at the camp site was text my parents to let them know I had arrived safely. Right after that, I turned my phone off and vowed not to turn it on until I was back in civilization. This seemed like a simple task, considering my battery was only halfway charged and because I never thought I was a smart phone addict. A few hours into the camping trip, I had my first relapse.

In the beginning, I had not even thought about my phone once. We unpacked the cars, pitched our tents, ate our lunch, and took a walk to the nearby lake. My phone did not cross my mind as I took a nap and lazed under the sun. The first issue that caused my relapse was having my phone in my vicinity. Even though my phone was turned off, having it sitting next to me was an unnecessary temptation; I habitually tried to check the time or my text messages like it was a built-in reaction to merely existing. Every time, I was surprised to be greeted with a blank screen since nothing happened when I pushed the buttons. It was as if I felt like something was missing if I did not click on my phone. That is when I knew that it was an addiction, one that could not be shaken as easily as I had originally assumed.

The first way to avoid using your smart phone is by putting it away. If you can’t see it and you can’t touch it, then you won’t be tempted by it. When I left my phone in the tent while I was by the camp fire, I thought about it periodically, but I did not care enough to expend the energy to retrieve it. Out of sight, out of mind truly worked in this case.

The first relapse happened out of boredom. I had done all the “camping” activities like relaxing, eating, talking and exploring. The rest of my friends were taking their naps and sure, I could have read or played Solitaire, but I didn’t do that. In my defense, my boyfriend fueled my addiction by asking, “What if your boss emailed you?” In any other circumstance, I would have responded, “I’m on vacation,” but in my already fragile state of withdrawal, it was just the excuse I needed to turn my phone on.

The only explanation I have for why I chose my phone over my book is because my phone was closer. During a technological detox, you should keep the non-toxic substances nearer at hand for easy access and minimal risk of relapse. If it had been more convenient for me to pick up a book instead of my phone, I would have chosen the more reachable object just to keep myself occupied.

Upon turning on my phone, I noticed that the battery had depleted even more, so I quickly checked my social media sites and my email, without interacting with anyone, and turned my phone off again. It did not stay off for long. The group awoke shortly and we began talking. As it happens with conversations, some people disagreed or others brought up topics I was unfamiliar with. My reflex has always been to immediately whip out my phone and search for whatever it is that I wanted to know. That is exactly what I did.

Even though I can no longer recall exactly what I searched or what I learned, I craved the instant gratification of getting the answer to a problem in a heartbeat. In retrospect, I could have just as easily written down my question and researched it when I returned home. Yet, I needed to know the answer at that very moment and it caused an internal nagging that I could not ignore. This could have been avoided if I had left my phone far, far away and if I had kept a notebook and pen handy. Before I had a phone with a built-in notepad, I carried an old-fashioned one everywhere with me. I still do when I know I’m going to a place where I have to take copious notes. With this example, we see just how ubiquitous technology has gotten that they can replace books, ink and even face-to-face contact.

Our generation’s tech addiction has reached the point where we can’t spend a day in the woods without being plugged in, and that is not okay. It makes me wonder what a modern day Walden or Cast Away would be like if the main character was freaking out over their 4Gs rather than concentrating on survival or simply enjoying nature.

As I sit here, typing on my laptop, the Food Network playing in the background, and I check my phone again (just for good measure), I wonder exactly what it would take for me to truly disconnect. What would life be like if we were forced to revert back to the times when all we had for entertainment was a piece of parchment, a quill, a shelf full of books, perhaps a piano if we were lucky. Maybe then we could appreciate the solitude of the trees, the large expanse of the sky’s stars, and the company of great friends.

Originally published on RIZZARR.