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watches, pictures and pay phones: my month without an iphone

The month of July has come to an end. It’s been hot, busy, exciting, and will result in one heck of a water bill. But most of all, it’s been absent my tiny digital friend the iPhone.

A recap if you’re just tuning in: I gave up my iPhone this month. No texting, no Facebook, no tweeting, no email, no calendar, no Google Maps. If I needed to use any of these things, I would access them on my laptop. I pretended that my cell was a home phone (we don’t have a landline), and left it at home when I went out.

What did I learn? Some valuable lessons. Firstly, that living without a cell phone makes me a bit like a cavewoman. I felt naked and slightly panicked for the first few days. What if someone needed me? What if there was an emergency? What would I do? But day by day the panic subsided and I was left feeling, for the lack of a non-cheesey word, free. While I was out and about going through my day, I didn’t have to worry about that email or kick myself for not returning that phone call. I didn’t worry about it because there was nothing I could do—it simply had to wait. I never resorted to using a pay phone, but I thought about it quite seriously once. Turns out I don’t carry much change.

When I was home, the temptation to keep my phone in my pocket remained. Before this hot little month began I would pull it out whenever I had a free minute to check Facebook, email, tweet a quick quip. So what did I do with all those new free minutes? I gave my daughter my undivided attention. I read books and magazines. I gardened. I cleaned the car. Nothing truly exciting, but it felt wonderful. At the end of the day I felt as though I had accomplished a lot and still had some time to relax. I no longer distracted myself through the day; the day distracted me.

In the beginning I told you that I would decide at the end of the month whether I would keep my iPhone or not. I have since found out I am under contract with AT&T, so it’s a financial no-brainer to stick with my current phone for now. But in my head I still debate about it. There are some features of the iPhone (in some cases, of any cell phone) that I can’t live without and some that I should live without. And here’s how the cards fall:

Texting. The one thing I really, truly missed. I won’t part with this one. I’m a lazy, anti-social creature by nature. Sometimes I don’t feel like talking on the phone, and sometimes I especially don’t feel like talking to the person I need to talk to. So I text. It’s one convenience of living in 2010 that I fiercely embrace.

Facebook. I’m being wishy-washy about keeping this app installed on my phone. First of all, I sort of hate the mobile version. Second of all, it only encourages me to check it more than I need to or should. I think getting rid of the app will help prevent me from falling back into the pit of iPhone distraction.

Twitter. Twitter and the iPhone go hand in hand. When I feel the urge to tweet something, by the time I find my laptop and log on, the urge has passed. Tweeting is quick, short, and I sort of hate the full version. And I’m certainly not as addicted to Twitter as I am to other iPhone apps, so I’m keeping my TwitBird.

iCal. My husband and I have a shared calendar in which we keep track of all of our appointments and events. Being without it has been sort of a nightmare. As much as I wanted keeping a paper calendar on the fridge to work, it simply didn’t. I forgot about important dates, failed to write future appointments down, and likely annoyed my friends and family by forgetting about things. I am scatterbrained as all heck, and I need my iCal.

Google Maps/GPS. I have the worst sense of direction known to man. If I can plug in my destination, check the traffic along the route, and get turn-by-turn directions that will tell me if I have gone astray, I will save myself a lot of headaches and wasted gas. And no, I will never, ever succumb to one of those wackadoodle GPS devices that speaks to you in a British accent. They freak me out.

Camera. So many pictures of my daughter doing ridiculous things were never taken. I don’t carry my SLR everywhere with me, and at so many points I wished that I could have taken a quick picture or video. Sadness.

Clock. Okay, laugh at me on this one. But I don’t wear a watch because I’ve never needed to. I became one of those strangers that asks you for the time and when they walk away you think, how on earth do they not know what hour of the day it is? It’s probably because they don’t have a cell phone and haven’t worn a watch since 1989.

Email. Am I the only one who takes days to return an email? This month, it felt like I was. Because I only checked my email when I got around to opening my laptop (which isn’t often when you’re chasing after a speedy toddler all day), emails stacked up and went unanswered. This one I’ll keep, just in case. But I now prefer to type out my emails on a keyboard that isn’t the size of a matchbook.

So there you have it, folks: the manifesto of a reformed iPhone junkie. If you find yourself in a similar spot, I’d recommend just giving it a go. Put your phone down for a day. Or a week. Or a month. Because when you’re staring at a tiny glowing screen, you’re missing it. And you’ll never know what you’re missing until you look up.

-RDG