Something that has always bothered me about smartphones is that they never really want to be turned off. Several models turn themselves on as soon as you plug them into their charger! Yes, you can turn them to ‘flight mode’ to have them off the network, but sometimes you forget. And then there is still going to be some calendar reminder or something else in a local app that will still make it ring or buzz during the night, disturbing your quiet.
I am sure you all know what I am talking about. These toys seem fun, but they do invade our private life big time.
The device in the picture is the one I had bought in America when I was working for Microsoft. My wife is still bothered that I actually had to put money in myself to buy something that kept me so hooked up to my work email, and made me work triple – and it was not even provided as a benefit, but I paid for it myself. No, I am not blaming Microsoft, I am largely blaming myself for having been so stupid in the first place.
Anyway, for the last year or so, and especially after having quit the corporation, I had also largely detoxed myself from my smartphone usage: I had switched back to a ‘old fashion’ mobile phone (one that only calls and handles text messages – no internet, no camera, nothing – and whose battery lasts over a week) and I had found peace again.
Then, more recently, for various reasons, we had swapped around phones with family members and we were one phone short for all the SIM cards in the family, so I reluctantly started using the smartphone again, to free the other simpler handset for my younger son.
The number of buzzes increased. I was slave again to a battery which doesn’t even last a day. It was starting to irritate me again.
As we were on holiday, one night, I really reached my limit. I’ll tell you how it happened.
We were finally camped with our camper van in a camping in Austria, after a few long days of a lot of travelling and exploring. It was pretty quiet at the camping, we had eaten something and it was getting dark. I was really tired I and decided I really could not afford being annoyed by anything, and that I needed a good night of sleep, so I purposely switched the smartphone completely off when we went to sleep that night. Even if the battery was almost empty, I decided to not charge it (we have electricity in the camper) but just leave it on the car’s dashboard, switched off – so it would stay off. We went to sleep and we were dreaming. Everything was great.
Then, at 3:23 AM, we started hearing the camper’s metal frame vibrating and shaking, and all of a sudden there was some light coming from the dashboard. Both me and my wife were now awake, and we identified the phone which, apparently, had autonomously decided to try to switch itself back on, but maybe didn’t have enough battery or had some other error, so it could not even start completely: it reached a certain point of the start-up sequence and then went back and rebooted itself and tried to start again, over and over and over… buzzing and flashing every time. I tried really hard to turn it off the ‘usual’ way: I mean with the button that’s supposed to do that. This model cannot even be opened, so you can’t just pull off the battery.
I knew from the past that when stuck in that way, plugging it in the charger would probably give it a boost of power and make it start, but I was really annoyed. I also wanted to act quickly, before our kids would also wake up in the middle of the night, in the small cramped space that a camper van in which you hear everything that is going on (this is just a Volkswagen transporter van converted into a camper, not a huge motor home…).
So I just decided to just break the phone: it was quite a disappointment as I was hoping it to ‘crack’ or snap like a chocolate bar, but it didn’t really do that… it just bent gradually, more and more, and it did finally stop functioning without much fanfare.
What is most amazing in this, is that – something I would notice several hours later, that day, when I checked my email from a computer – one minute earlier than the event, at 3:22 AM, an email with a Survey had been sent by my former team to their customers.
While the phone wouldn’t technically turn on to fetch emails, I’ve got the feeling that someone was thinking about me when sending that mail.
I cannot tell if this will be the last time that former employer wakes me up at night – even 10 months after I have quit.
But I am utterly done with smartphones, I can tell you this for sure.
Relax, I don’t mean everybody should break their phones! Technology can be very useful, but it should make our lives better, not worse. We should be in charge of our lives, aided by machines in some tasks, but we shouldn’t be ruled by them.
When are you going to detox from – at least some of this – technological invasiveness that is creeping in our lives?
PS – if by any chance you didn’t recognize the quote in the picture, I suggest looking at this snippet of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland on YouTube (the key part starts at around 1:20 till 1:45)