In the past 3 months, I lived without a mobile phone. I was led to this situation more than I chosed it, but I went along with it to see where it would take me, perfectly knowing that mobile phones grew like cancer recently.
At first, living without a mobile phone is stressful. You always think that something important is happening and you are not in the know. Then you realize that this actually never happens. In 3 months, not having a mobile phone only mattered when dealing with people who just assume you have a phone and things can get planned at the last minute. They just got disappointed, and I could rightfully justify my unavailability. Otherwise, with a little planning like we used to do back in the days, everything went smoothly.
Once you understand that, you reach a first threshold. That’s the breaking point, where you took the blue pill and now stand on the other side of the screen. That every service has been digitalized sounds kind of a great thing, but that people are now obsessed with their portable screens and their never-ending flow of notifications is not that great. Mobile phones are used on any type of transportation and sometimes while driving, in the bathroom, while having a drink with friends, while there’s seemingly nothing else to do… This adds up to a lot of hours of attention for mostly noise. Most of the time, what we do with mobile phones is useless : Chatting, snoozing on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, looking through contacts and latest sent texts over and over, playing popular games, even checking spam messages in email inbox because what else… Picking up a phone and do whatever has become the new void-filler.
Yet, when you don’t have a phone, you gain more thinking time: in an age when information has become a permanent attention-grabber, we spend a good deal of our free thinking time getting informed: news outlets, social networks and the mobile phone have made us zombies staring at a constant stream of info. Notifications keep us captive. With less mobile phone comes more free time, more thinking time, more self-made opinions, thus more autonomy overall. Quoting French TV vet Patrick Le Lay, head of TF1 “we sell available brain time to brands”. Reading posts on social networks and news articles is not the same intellectual gymnastics as reading a book. It’s usually easier and related to opinion news in general.
After 3 months off the hook, I did purchase a brand new phone. I only set up the following apps:
- Android’s native: Google Docs, Keep, Calendar, Music, Maps, Photo, Chrome, Hangout. I also have YouTube but I never watch YouTube on mobile.
- I downloaded Whatsapp because it’s widely used as a replacement of the phone in Latin America, Feedly because I’m an old school RSS geek, Skype and my printer’s app because they won’t work properly on my Chromebook, and Wemo to remotely manage some of my house’s electric devices.
No more Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, banking apps, blogging apps, analytics apps, gaming apps, Netflix, Soundcloud, … Truth is, I don’t need those apps in the palm of my hand. I use them on my laptop, this way they don’t feel invasive. I’ve been an Android fan for a long time. I bought the G1 when it came out, and always lived with Android since then. Just like any long-time, tech-curious mobile user, I tried an infinity of apps. I know how it feels to be a vibrant mobile consumer, but that ship has sailed.