The logistical savings that are provided by mobiles are obviously astonishing. My mum and her generation still can’t cope with the fact that we can arrange to meet then and NOT KNOW EXACTLY WHERE AND WHEN. As I headed out recently to an interview with a potential client I was grateful as I always am to have this powerhouse of extraordinaryness in my hand. I used thetrainline app, google maps app, google places app, my contact list, my browser, my email, my calendar – and that was all to get myself from station to station to my hotel. Then I listened to Radio4 on my radio app, meditated using my meditation timer app, set my alarm clock using…my alarm clock app…oh – and wait – I think I phoned Rach using THE PHONE too.
What a bloody extraordinary thing.
This: You’re in a queue. You’re waiting at the bar. You’re lurking at the back of a shop waiting for your partner to try on stuff. You’re waiting for a bus (actually, this isn’t me: there aren’t any buses in Devon..but, you know..). You’re at a pub in-between talking to people.
Now if you’re anything like me, you do this, impulsively: Reach. For. Your. Mobile.
These tiny moments are the ones I normally fill with Twitter. For others, it’s Facebook. Or both. Every second is an opportunity to boot up the app, check your timeline, post a tweet, a picture, a comment, catch up on the people you’re following. Lovely.
Except: is it? I’m not sure.
There’s a lot of writing about the creative pause, or sacred spaces – kinda the same thing but with different names – those moments of nothingness: the few minutes between activities, the gap in the conversation, a second for reflection or maybe even an “aha!” moment. We’re filling those moments chock full. We’re “killing time”.
Addiction aside (and yes, I’m pretty sure I’m addicted – but so, by the way, are you – and you – and yes, you too..), I’m not sure I want to be “killing time”. I want to be “using time”.
So I’ve been trying an experiment for a bit over a month now. The experiment isn’t giving up social. I tried that before, and the fact is I like it, and the people I follow, too much. Instead, I’m trying to not use my mobile to check or update social stuff.
So far, I like it. I like the spaces it gives me, the moments of – well, nothing. I like having down-time. I like having thinking time. I like feeling like I’m not spending my entire life following links. In summary: it feels better.
Twitter – and I guess Facebook too – does something weird to your sense of consciousness about your place in the world. This sense is often positive: I particularly get this from my @dmje account where the people I follow are people I know and care about, and where the Dunbar-like numbers mean I actually stand a chance of knowing who everyone is, where they are and what they’re doing at any one time. But this sense is also strangely artificial. Removing that constant background buzz is an eye-opener, in a weird way I haven’t yet managed to put words to.
Is my mobile less interesting because of this change? I’d be lying if I said no. But – I do feel a bit more connected with the world around me now I’m not constantly interrupting my own life to check what everyone else is doing with theirs.
I’d recommend this as an experiment to anyone, if only so you can say “Nah, tried it, it was insanely shit” – and then go back to the way you were. If you do, let me know – I’d be fascinated to hear.