Is your smartphone an extension of yourself or is it still just a tool?
I spent last week in Calgary on business. It was just another short stay in a strange city until I left a restaurant one evening to discover my phone was not with me. It didn’t take long to determine that it had been lifted from my jacket, hung on a coat hook near my table.
After the initial shock, I called my mobile provider and had the phone disconnected. I’m due for an upgrade in two months but in the meantime I will have to go back to my old phone with a newly programmed SIM card. Not the end of the world.
Then why did it feel like it is? Since having my phone stolen I’ve felt impaired, technologically to be sure, but it feels like even more than that.
My phone, much like yours, is my:
Portable music device
Primary means of taking pictures
Primary navigation device
Email access provider
Telegraph machine (texts, or SMS)
In short, my main point of contact! I don’t have a home phone. I’m now, officially, a stranger in a strange land.
Fortunately, I am not far from my hotel this time. But the loss of my phone means no more random wanderings in any new city checking out cool little record shops, vintage clothing, or book stores. I’ve been set back 10 years. I now need to map out where I’m going on my laptop before I leave to go anywhere.
Contact with family and friends has become sporadic. I need a Wi-Fi connection for my laptop to check my email or to drop a quick line home via Google talk. That means stopping to connect as soon as I get off a plane and just before it leaves. It means that I am completely unreachable for those periods of time I’m not at my desk, at a coffee shop or at home. I feel like a one man lost tribe.
For the moment, I’ve noticed I’ve become a more physically social person. That is, I am many times more likely to speak to a fellow passenger on an elevator or at a stop light. Whereas before I would be standing, head down, checking my mail or playing a round of some inane mobile game, I find myself looking around and even interacting with others. Not everyone mind you. Many, many of the people I contact are comfortably ensconced in their own mobile bubble.
During meals I find myself looking for a newspaper to read, if alone, or actively engaging others in conversation about the upcoming meal, music, or some other real, immediate thing. It’s very odd.
Do I miss my phone? Yes. The shakes have finally subsided though. And I still have my physical notebook so I can note street addresses and phone numbers. I have devolved back to an earlier form of myself. One that can navigate from memory. A person that is comfortable talking to strangers for directions. Just the same, for the record, becoming reacquainted with pay phones has been a less than delightful experience.
Jon Reid is an IT professional working in Corner Brook. His column appears every other Tuesday in The Western Star.