Since 2008, I’ve subscribed to unlimited 3G data plans. When the first data plan came out in France, I just couldn’t believe it, I was astonished. With direct access to maps, wikipedia, messengers, it felt like the digital extension of my brain, of my human and social faculties.
Before I could even notice it, I didn’t only rely on it, I became totally dependent. So dependent, that when I lost my smartphone a year ago, and spent an entire week disconnected, I felt like walking down the streets without a safety net. Yet I felt free. I liked being alone with myself for real, and realized how scarce this alone time was.
“If they’re awake, they’re online.” — Eric Schmidt
So when I came back from San Francisco a couple months ago, I decided to buy a $20 feature phone and try an alternate use: one day with my smartphone, one day with my feature phone.
It didn’t work.
Though I spent great disconnected quality time walking down the streets, being fully present with friends, not having to fear getting phonejacked (that’s huge in Paris), things got impractical:
- I started borrowing friends’ smartphones to check Gmail & Gcal because I forgot when/where was my next meeting,
- I couldn’t randomly interview and photograph people (you’ll understand that here),
- I stopped taking Day One personal notes throughout the day.
And so on. Basically I gave up on a lot of phone’s great offline features, mainly because I wanted my outside personal time to be as offline as possible.
But my problem is not the phone, it’s the connection. The always -present temptation to check my facebook account (I already deleted the facebook app), to pull-down-to-refresh my twitter or instagram feed, and even sometimes my Foursquare feed (yes, wtf?).
With this always connected state, we’ve entered the ‘what’s next’ mode. This mode makes it difficult to be alone with ourselves, always checking something when we’re waiting for the bus/a friend/in line.
So I canceled my data plan.
When at home or at work, I’m still fully connected through WiFi, but when I step outside, I’m free. Even though I still have all these great features that extends my faculties (apps, basically), I can’t numb my alone time in mere digital connection. This experience is great on different levels:
- It’s cheaper: I went from a $50+ plan to a $0 plan with ‘Free’ mobile. It goes along with my life simplification goals.
- Battery life improves: My iPhone battery drained every half-day. I can now leave home with a 60% charge 🙂
- I’m more present: I almost never check my phone anymore, either with friends or family. I’m fully present with them, body and mind. I’m not sinking into this ‘pull-down-to-refresh’ mode, just because I can’t stand loneliness. Plus, I’m actually getting better at noticing my thoughts, how I feel, and how people feel. It’s like practicing meditation throughout the day!
- I write more: Getting better at noticing my thoughts and feelings got me wanting to write more about them. So when I’m in one of my alone times, I tend to write about how I feel, what I think, rather to check out how people deal with their fear of loneliness on different social networks. And it gives me great ideas for medium articles.
I’ve been out of 3G for a few months now, and I’m doing great. It’s not about quitting the internet, it’s about being (with) myself more.
You should try canceling you data plan, even just for a month, as an experiment. And if you did, how did it go?