I was watching Hitchcock’s Psycho the other day, and there’s this scene where the private investigator Arbogast has just finished checking out Bates Motel and needs to ring back to Lila to tell her what he’s found out. So he drives off to find a pay phone. Suspense, thrills and great black&white movies aside, all I could think of was “Gosh, it must have sucked back then not to have mobile phones.”
Up until only very, very recently, I would have what you could probably call a chronic dependency on my mobile phone. I’d check it precisely every 5 minutes. I couldn’t get through writing a single paragraph without checking my messages about 5 times in the process. (It probably didn’t help lah, that my phone would also beep constantly and every message was a potentially important / catastrophic / monumental one).
I would check my phone about 5 times when I went to bed at night… or as many times as it beeped until I fell asleep. I became so precisely tuned to the beep on my phone that I would hear it every time it beeped throughout the night. When I woke up, the first thing I would do was to check my phone (and find, on average, about 70 – 110 new, unread messages).
It got so bad one day that I heard my phone beep a few times (several messages coming in all at once, which was normal for every 15 minutes) and burst into tears. It was all I could do not to throw the phone off my 2nd floor balcony, but I couldn’t of course because I was as dependent on it as I was averse to it. What if Something Important came through just as I threw it off the balcony? Horror.
I would check my phone at traffic lights, while I was taking a poop, while waiting for a meeting to start, as I walked from one side of the room to the other, while the barista was totting up the cost of my coffee – just about every single moment when I wasn’t doing something else. I would check my whatsapp messages, text messages, emails, Facebook. Then, to “relax” in between the messages, I would check Instagram, Pinterest; for “maintenance”, I would go through the thousands of photos I was getting weekly and delete the ones that had been repeatedly sent 11 times. It was a real, proper, true-to-life addiction.
But now I’m trying a revolutionary new thing, and it has transformed a HUGE part of what I understand Peace to be.
See, I’m in a new space now and it is very, very magically, wonderfully quiet. I have the Grand Luxury of being Totally Alone and Not Answering My Phone the first nanosecond that it beeps. So about a week ago I decided that just for one evening I would turn my phone to silent. I haven’t turned the sound back on since.
And I must say – what incredible, unexpected, unadulterated, beautiful, soundless, peaceful, stress-free BLISS it has been. Now, I leave my phone at home (for a whole 3 hours!) when I go to the gym. I don’t check my phone at a traffic light, I just breathe and listen to the radio instead. I can now sit next to my phone for hours, not check it and – wonder upon wonders – actually forget that it’s even there.
Freedom from your phone has just got to be the best healing therapy ever. There is a whole genre of peace just within not having to check your phone. Every professional should have a phone retreat a few weeks a year and it should be written into companies’ health policies and office codes. Doctors should recommend it as a whole treatment of its own.
So okay, maybe the question shouldn’t be how they lived without a handphone back in the 1950s. It should be how are we’re living – frazzled, panicked, addicted, obsessive-compulsive – with one now.