My life without a smartphone
It was not my intention, but I have been without my smartphone for 11 days now. It was not a result of some extraordinary decision. I was out drinking one night and lost it somewhere on my way home. My insurance covers a rental phone until I get a replacement, but I thought I would go without it for a while.
As I expected, I experienced various inconveniences. When I was running late for a meeting, I could not send a message or call in advance. I had a hard time retrieving the schedules and appointments kept in the smartphone’s calendar, and I was anxious not to miss any of them. The most painful part was the contacts list. Thankfully, I had copied the phonebook to my notebook about a year ago. But many of the numbers were outdated.
German journalist Christof Koch lived without Internet or a smartphone for 40 days, and he experienced phantom vibrations on his thigh, where his phone used to be inside his pocket. It is almost like the phantom pain after an amputation. I did not suffer as much as Koch, but I constantly felt something was missing in my left pocket. Koch also had to pay the price of missing out on countless inquiries and offers to write during the 40 days he was offline. Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung reporter Alex Ruhle lived without an Internet connection or mobile phone for six months and published a book about his life offline. He was no longer using online banking services, so he had to visit a bank branch and fill out slips to make account transfers. He made sure he had coins for a pay phone in case he needed to make a phone call. When he wanted to find out something, he called his father in the middle of the night since he could not look it up on the Internet with his smartphone or computer.
I used Internet on my notebook and used phones at home and the office, so my offline experience was not as hardcore as Koch’s and Ruhle’s. But I have come to realize that I was using the smartphone to connect with the outside world for a number of reasons aside from simply communicating. When I was not connected, the world was moving as usual. Frankly, I was the one who was uncomfortable and felt like I was missing out, and the world did not miss me much. And the most important partner of conversation was not the world but myself. Just as I was getting used to nervousness and emptiness, I learned to treasure the subtle sense of liberation.
We may be misinterpreting the increasing quantity of communication through smartphones as an improvement in quality. Ulrich Schnabel wrote about the “vicious cycle of the electric shaver” in his book “Muße.” “I am trying to shave quickly because I want to save time to invent a better electric shaver. If I have more time, I will be able to invent a faster shaver, and if I can shave faster, I will be able to invent an even faster shaver,” he said.
*The author is an editorial writer of the Joongang Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun