Dazed, alone and without a phone

It is not until we lose them that we realise how much we rely on our phones

How much do you use your phone? More importantly, how much do you depend on your phone? For yours truly, the ideal answer would be “not a lot”. The reality however is that I need my phone for so much more than I realise or would like to admit. I came to this realisation a few weeks ago when, though it seemed in perfect condition with no falls from balconies or into toilets, my phone died one evening and wouldn’t turn back on. At first I didn’t think too much about it. This had happened to my phone before, so I decided to let it charge overnight and hope for the best. However, I encountered an issue straightaway: without my phone I had no alarm, and I’m not in the position where I can trust myself to wake up naturally. So I plugged in my laptop, turned down the brightness and turned off the sleep function so that in the morning it would wake me up. Nevertheless, worrying about my phone combined with the stress that the laptop alarm wouldn’t work meant that I woke up multiple times in the night to check it was still functioning.

The morning did not bring good news: my phone was still dead. I coordinated Facebook video calls with my family to inform them and searched for repair stores. Thankfully I had no classes, so I could take the morning to try and sort my phone out. Ideally, I would be able to function perfectly well without the aid of a phone, and I often claim that this is the case. However, as I headed out to fix my phone, I was forced to reassess these claims. I found that not having it made everything more inconvenient and, frankly, annoying. I realised just how much I go on my phone when I’m walking around. Normally, even when I try and put my phone away to look at my surroundings instead, my hands feel the itch to take it out and scroll through Instagram, though I know I don’t need to since there will be no new content to see. Not being able to do this meant I walked around and took things in more. I found myself laughing at little things, wanting to take a photo of them and then feeling silly when I remembered I wasn’t able to. I felt like I was underwater, unable to reach or be reached by anyone. 

“Have we normalised being on our phones so much that they have become an extension of ourselves?”

Unfortunately, I also had no idea what the time was. I’d found a watch among my belongings but, surprise surprise, it was broken too. I went around town, blindly hoping hours wouldn’t go by. I resorted to taking out my laptop to check the time. That’s a funny thing we don’t think about: everyone goes on their phones while walking about and no one thinks anything of it, but standing there, with my laptop out in the street I felt incredibly out of place. Why did a laptop feel so awkward compared to a phone? Have we normalised being on our phones so much that they have become an extension of ourselves? 

The response I got from repair stores wasn’t promising: it looked like I would have to spend a minimum of €80 for any kind of repair, since they didn’t know what the problem was, and wait between five days to a few weeks. They also informed me that they may have had to send my phone away to fix it. I decided to hold off from giving away my phone to a store and, instead, followed my brother’s advice to try and charge it wirelessly in case the charging port was the issue. I borrowed my friend’s charger and left my sad, lifeless phone on it. I tried to get on with my day without thinking of the stress, effort, and expense involved in the whole affair. 

Being virtually timeless and unreachable hindered my lunch and dinner plans, as well as a tutoring lesson I had scheduled. I got around this by pre-arranging a time and place for lunch, arriving early and waiting for my friend. I floated, out of time, and got back home in the nick of time for tutoring. At dinnertime, I asked my friends to meet near my house so I could receive their messages on my laptop, knowing that if I left I wouldn’t be able to. Needless to say, not having my phone made all sorts of communication so much harder with those not around me. I had no idea where people were and struggled to coordinate with them, which revealed how much I normally use my phone to function.

“I missed knowing what the time was, being able to set an alarm or take a photo if I wanted to.”

I didn’t miss scrolling through Instagram or TikTok, filling my brain with mindless content. What I had missed was knowing what the time was, being able to set an alarm, or take a photo if I wanted to. I was stressed because no phone meant no online boarding pass which would make it harder to go home under Covid-19 norms. I know, this isn’t a real problem. But when your family lives in a different country, when you physically own no other clocks or alarms, and, because of Covid-19, so much is accessed through QR scanners and so much communication with people involves using your phone, then a normal day without your phone can easily take a turn. Trying to fix it took a lot of time out of my day which I had wanted to dedicate to other tasks, so I wanted to resolve it quickly and became frustrated I couldn’t. I also found that I was so stressed about the expense and hassle of fixing my phone, that I couldn’t even relax and enjoy my phone-free time.

After the second night of charging blank screened, I tried to automatically restart my phone for what seemed to be the 500th time, as a last chance saloon before I gave up, and it came to life. My relief was immense, not because I could go on social media again, but because I didn’t have to add the worry of sorting my phone out to my daily list. I could once again do many menial tasks with it, which I had taken for granted—thank god for phone calculators. Safe to say, though, I’ll be buying a watch.