So Long, Smartphone!

Ten Lessons About Social Work From Hamilton
8th January 2019

Matt Bee is taking the plunge in 2019 and going low tech. Could you do the same?

I’VE just done something crazy. Some people would call me un-hinged. I’ve binned my smartphone for a Nokia 3310, which, in the modern world, is about as hi-tech as a lump of coal.

You see, a few years ago I bought an iPhone and at first I was impressed. In those first heady weeks, I was routinely astonished at what it could do. Banking, emails, videos, movies, music… it could do it all. And whenever I got lost it would show me the way home.

What’s more, it only got better with time. Every few weeks, Apple would update the device and I’d suddenly find a new icon shining away on the home screen. Most recently it was a measuring app. Press the icon and you can measures things – and as banal as that sounds this has actually proved quite intriguing. Soon I was measuring everything. And it was only when I discovered that our mantel piece is 82.6cm across, that something clicked. I didn’t actually care how wide our mantel piece was. Never had – until now.

Neither, for that matter, had I ever cared how many hours I’d slept, how many steps I’d walked, but my iPhone measures these things all the same. It is also, constantly, thumbing through my email account, ferreting for new podcasts, staying in touch with close friends and giving me a watching brief on the local traffic situations. Now, whenever I head to the door, it gives me an expected journey time – even though I never tell it where I’m going. And yet, invariably it’s always right.

Over time, this has become tiresome – like having an over-attentive butler. Imagine if Jeeves wouldn’t leave you alone in the shower, or the toilet, standing there handing you sheets of Andrex and then informing you in a clipped accent you’d used 3 less sheets than the previous day. This is what it’s like living with an iPhone.

It gets worse, too, because it never switches off. It never grows tired. It never sags or sighs or gasps and says it can’t go online any longer. Always it is there, and always I am reaching for it to check the latest news, travel, weather… whatever. Half the time I don’t even care what I’m looking for, I just have to be swiping for something. It’s like an addiction. Last night it was the price of used Volvos. The night before it was the cast of Outnumbered because I’d just watched an episode before bed and, instead of sleep, I was seized with the desire to know Hugh Dennis better.

With a smartphone I can’t help myself 

With a smartphone I can’t help myself. Ten years ago I could go weeks without checking my bank balance. Now it is hours. Leave me waiting, well, anywhere… leave me waiting at a checkout, for instance, and by the time I reach the till I’ll have probably amended a standing order and paid a gas bill. Or I might have booked a holiday to Tenerife. Or bought an old camp bed off ebay.

There is literally nothing I can’t do with my iPhone up to, and including, measuring the fixtures and fittings in my house. And this is why it is time to stop, because if I don’t what comes next? It’s like being possessed.  

So I am delighted, if a little nervous, to be receiving an old-skool Nokia 3310 tomorrow. From then on I will be incapable of performing even the most basic online tasks. For awhile I imagine this will feel alien, a little strange, and at times I may even panic – like when I am seized with a sudden urge to visit Mumbai via Google Street View.

However, if the past is anything to go by (in the days before smartphones, that is) then I also expect life to become more peaceful. My phone will return to just being a phone. I will use it occasionally to phone people – although judging how often I actually phone people, I will probably use it instead as some sort of paperweight. Maybe I will just put it in a drawer or something. I don’t know.

But what I do know is I’ll have my life back, and everything else will return to how it should be. My bed will become a place to sleep – as opposed to a place to shop, bank or book holidays. And I won’t give two figs how wide my mantel piece is.

Modern technology is supposed to give us freedom but actually the reverse is true. Ditching it does… I hope. And with a day job as stressful as drug and alcohol counselling, what I need more than anything when I am home is quality downtime. Not a bunch of Youtube videos and mindless hours on Wikipedia.

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