My radio. My video streamer. My game console. My entertainment. My flashlight. My books. My personal assistant. My wake-up call. My weatherman. My time piece. My email communicator. My social media monitor. My messenger. My address book. My camera. My album. My translator. My map. My GPS. My pedometer. My vision board for the future. My files. My notes. My calculator.
It does all of those things for me. The Holy Spirit is my constant and best companion and my phone is His first runner up. It’s my main source of entertainment in this nomadic life that I lead. It also keeps me informed of important things, like the current time in the cities where my loved ones live or the expected high and low temperatures for the day, which helps me determine how much I need to bundle up. And it keeps track of various things for me, like ideas and notes for this blog or to-do items for weeks or months in the future. Most importantly, my phone keeps me connected to the people in my life.
Despite all of this, I would still classify myself as a fairly light smart phone user. I don’t think I’m addicted to it – but then, addicted people never think they’re addicts, do they? So I take my opinion that I’m not an addict with a grain of salt.
Anyway, the reason I don’t think I’m an addict is because I have no problem ignoring my phone for long periods of time. For example, when I’m with someone in person, I usually give them all of my attention, waiting until we’re parting ways to check my phone. (Full disclosure: if I feel bored in someone’s company then I’ll definitely check my phone during our interaction, but generally speaking, I give my full attention to the company I’m with.) Also, I put my phone on silent when I go to bed because I find it annoying to be woken up by dings and buzzes in the middle of the night, but I do like to see new messages when I wake up in the morning. Putting my phone on silent gives me the best of both worlds.
In my current living situation, I don’t have wifi at home. I could have wifi at home but so far I’ve opted not to. I mean, why? At least five days a week I get free wifi fifty steps away from where I live and, so far, I haven’t found myself missing it at home enough to get it. Most of what I would want it for at home I can do on my phone anyway (except binge-watching series online; I’m not eating up my data with that). Even on my day off, I sometimes amble over to school and use the wifi for a few hours if I need it.
Since I don’t have wifi at home the data-connection on my phone is very important when I’m there. So you can imagine my mild alarm when I woke up about two and a half weeks after I got here to find that I couldn’t send any WhatsApp messages and, in fact, none of my messaging services were connecting. Thinking that something might be wrong with my phone, I restarted it but to no avail. Finally, I figured out that I was out of data. I had already used up the 6 gigs of data that I started out with, which was estimated by my local work colleague to last me a month. This was ironic because just the evening before I had been trying to figure out how to check my data balance since I had a feeling I would be running out soon. Of course, this surprising development of running out of data while I slept was not surprising at all because, well, I don’t have wifi at home.
At first, I didn’t sweat it. I was heading to school in a couple of hours anyway, where I would get wifi and where someone was sure to be available to show me how to refill my phone account. I settled back in bed and spent some peaceful time with God. It was just Him and me and no distracting thoughts like, “I should see how so-and-so is doing before I forget,” or “Let me check this online before I forget,” I suppose because I couldn’t do anything about those things anyway. I don’t mean to say that the thoughts came and I swatted them away. I mean that, mostly, they didn’t come at all. It’s funny how the mind works, isn’t it? On any other day, I would have been making a mental effort to ignore these kinds of thoughts but on the day when I didn’t have the capability to do anything about them, my brain didn’t even bother to produce them.
But then I got up and got ready for school. By that time I still had quite some time to kill before someone would be there to open up and it was then that I started feeling adrift. I didn’t reach for a book, I didn’t listen to a podcast, I didn’t play a game. I felt a little itchy and unsettled and uninterested in the non-internet related things that I would usually do with or without my phone to amuse myself. I just wanted to sort out the issue so I could get back online and get back to normal.
Huh. Would you look at that? Maybe I’m a teensy bit addicted after all.