Ready for a Smartphone Syndrome Fast?
I call this the Smartphone Syndrome. Where people can't help but check their Twitter feed every five seconds. Where whenever they are seated at a restaurant for a meal, they take out their smartphones to take photos of the food so they can upload it onto Instagram. Where people talk to their friends, stop the conversation mid-sentence and whip out their phones to find out if Celebrity A is really pregnant. Where while driving on a busy road, they check Google Maps to see if they are heading the right way.
I get fidgety when my smartphone is not within my reach. While I'm waiting in line to buy "chap fan", I will unlock my smartphone to check on social media updates and send silly emoticons to my friends on Whatsapp. It's like how a smoker feels anxious without a cigarette in his/her hand. The urge to find out about what's happening online — be it on social networks, Wikipedia, YouTube or a news site -- is stronger when I have my smartphone around. You get my drift.
So, out of sheer frustration with my addiction, I decided to go cold turkey. 'The first step to curb addiction is to realise the problem and acknowledge it. And then, taking action,' I thought to myself, trying to accept that I have a "problem."
One morning, I just switched my SIM card into a feature phone. It is a clamshell (oh, how old-school) phone with GPRS (wow, I haven't heard that in a long time) and it basically just offers voice and text functions. Yes, I know I can go online using GPRS too but it will be kingdom come before I can load any page.
Suddenly, I was stricken with panic. "How will I survive this? Should I come up with a time frame? Can I survive a week without a smartphone?" These thoughts whirred in my head, filling me with doubt.
As I got onto the train for work that morning, I praised myself for "doing the right thing." Normally, I would stand in the train so as I stood there, I wondered how the 20-minute ride would be. I started observing the people around me. My eyes landed on another person who was busy playing games on his smartphone. Immediately, I started to reach for my phone when I realised that it was not a smartphone.
"Oh boy, this is going to be a long ride," I thought with dread. I think it was the longest train ride of my life. Someone once said that if you are caught in a bad situation, it is best to think of other things to distract yourself. So, I started to think about positive things and did some sort of meditation on the train (just breathing slowly, mind you).
And then the train arrived at the station. That wasn't too bad. At the office, I was busy churning out stories and arranging for interviews that I did not once think about my smartphone. It was only during lunchtime that I realised it was going to be a big problem.
My colleagues and I went out together and I hoped that the company would distract me from my "withdrawal symptoms." Already I was getting antsy in the lift as we headed out.
We sat down and ordered our food. Luckily for me, we were talking about something interesting so I didn't have any urge to think about smartphones or social media. For the entire period of waiting, I enjoyed the conversation I had with my colleagues and I felt a lot better.
The biggest challenge was when the food arrived. I enjoy taking photos with my smartphone whenever I eat out but my feature phone only had a measly VGA camera. I decided then to just savour the food, to forget about the photos.
Over the period of the next two days, it was basically the same challenges but as the hours went by, I learned how to live in the present, real world instead of the world of bits and bytes.
Why should I check out what's happening online with other friends when I'm sitting with a living and breathing friend at the dinner table?
Yes, I've reverted back to using my smartphone (I have a data plan which I paid for in advance) because I need it to check work emails, use the GPS and also so that I can access information.
But I'm not as attached as before. In fact, I can safely say I can live without a smartphone for an entire day if I have a choice.
It was a hurdle I had to overcome but now that I've done it, I'm satisfied with the new perspective I have. Addicted to smartphones? I challenge you to the Smartphone Syndrome Fast.