What you’re missing when you’re staring at your phone

In London I had an iPhone and I used it for everything, relied on it completely. I could be in contact with everyone at all times in about five different ways, I could cheat at pub quizzes, I could listen to music, I could arrive at the nearest tube station and googlemap my destination, trustingly following the bouncing blue ball of destiny. It bore all the wear and tear of a well-loved teddy bear: I smashed the screen (twice), it would dramatically turn itself off when I tried to switch too quickly between applications, the cover had tiny bite marks where Elissa’s playful pet rat, Leon had a little nibble.

When I arrived in Thailand I had a tourist phone. It was my dad’s ‘holiday’ phone, the charmingly boxy Sony Ericsson K800; the ring tone was the guitar solo from Sweet Child of Mine and the text tone was Road Runner’s ‘meep meep’. It did everything a phone should do, namely receive and make calls and texts, and nothing more. I started to love the fact that if people wanted to get hold of me, they had to call me. My friends’ smartphones were constantly beeping, flashing, WhatsApp, Facebook and Line notifications filling their home-screens, vying for their attention while we were having dinner, making me anxious. I thought, ‘That looks exhausting.’ Dylan Moran shares my reservations:

I loved that retro phone; it withstood my abuse stoically, like the hen-pecked partner of a melodramatic diva, calmly rebooting every time I dropped it or flung it or stood on it. That phone was loyal, it remained good and true even as the keypad fell off and the #9 stopped working, hung in there for me, while I, like a bored lover continued to treat it with contempt and eventually callously and casually tossed it aside.

The Samsung shit-brick I replaced it with had no such qualms – some kind of phone karma, I suppose. Small, plasticky, compact and functional, with no character and an indistinct ringtone, it didn’t stick around very long (perhaps it got wind of my triflin’ ways), and wisely got itself lost – almost certainly down the loo at Beatlounge. Never to be seen or heard of again.

That day I posted this on Faceboook:


In the end, I gave in to the universe (and Alisa – prodigious WhatsApper and instagrammer) and got an iPhone. Not a new one – I’m not allowed nice things – a 4, which proved quite enough to impress my friends, weary of having to pay to text me. As I casually pulled it out the first evening it was mine, Ben opened his eyes wide, leaning back in suspicious disbelief as if it were some kind of witchcraft, ‘Whaaaaatttttt. is that?’ Similarly, upon my whipping it out and checking it later that night, Zac did a cartoon double take that made me laugh so much I promptly dropped it. Nobody was surprised.

So now, I have joined the 21st century and the masses therein whom I see every day staring at their phones on the BTS, in restaurants, walking along the pavement, intently engaged in their Twitter feeds or games of Candy Crush. I too find myself back in the habit of idly scrolling my Facebook feed whenever I am paused.

BTS Phone Zombies

But then I saw this:

To my mind,  there are two lessons in this very cool video:

1) When you’re filming or taking a picture of a significant event, you’re essentially missing it. Again,  let us turn to Mr Moran for his thoughts on the subject:

Everybody does that now. We all take pictures… you do the same with holiday photos. You record something to look back on it, even though you’re not really there when you’re taking the picture ‘cause you’re too busy recording it – so you retrospectively go to look back on where you weren’t and tell yourself you had a good time.

This is true. I was lucky enough to go and see Angkor Wat before I got the iPhone. I had a great time, sitting, staring, climbing, exploring, staring some more. Everyone asked me, ‘Oh, did you take any photos?’ Nope! Because a) I am a terrible photographer and you’ll get a much better sense of how breath-takingly gorgeous it is if you Google-image it (or go and see it for real).  And b) because I was too busy enjoying it, taking it in, and now it lives in my head,  because I was there.

2) While you’re playing Angry Birds, you’re missing everything else. So, this week I made a conscious effort to find out what was going on around me in the real world instead of staring into the one that exists on a 4 inch screen.

It turns out, a whole lot of beautiful and hilarious and interesting stuff:

There are the gorgeous people. I have fallen in love on the train about four times this week. Sadly (or perhaps luckily) they were all too busy looking at their phones to notice the creepy, stalky girl checking them out.

I spotted these amazing shoes:

Great shoes

The lady wearing them did so with aplomb, she skipped along the platform like a fairy.

There was the chap who looked like he was about to climb a mountain or catch and kill his dinner in his pocketed khakis with his hood up, all-weather rucksack at his feet. Then he stood up and slung the bag onto his back to reveal this adorably incongruous little mascot:

Real Men Have Teddies

Real Men Have Teddies

And then there’s all that baffling casual racism you might miss if you’re not paying attention:

Ummm...Are we OK with this? #NotBuyingIt

Ummm…Are we OK with this? #NotBuyingIt

There are things to be seen, enjoyed and questioned everywhere – here is proof in the form of some amazing street posters – and I don’t want to miss them so my phone will be staying in my bag.


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