The Psychology of Being Without a Cell Phone

picture of an iphoneTwo weeks ago my iphone was stolen (or I might have lost it —  I’m still not sure). I’ve been fascinated by the psychology of what it felt like to not have a cell phone.

Of course, there was a time when no one had cell phones — It’s hard to remember these days, but I actually spent a large part of my life without a cell phone. You would never have known that by my initial reaction. I was in the Schaumburg, Illinois Ikea store when I realized that I didn’t have my phone. I had made a call from the store, so I knew I’d had the phone went I went in, but it was now gone. I searched all over the store to all the places I had been (it’s a big store and I had been in the store for over an hour). I checked with the customer service desk to see if anyone had turned in a phone. No luck.

Panic and powerlessness — As I reluctantly walked out of the store I felt both panicked and powerless. Was my phone in the store somewhere? Had it been stolen? Should I stay until I found it?  I was on my way to someone’s apartment in Chicago, and the plan was that I was supposed to call her when I was close. But now I couldn’t call. What if she wasn’t there, because she was out running errands waiting for my call? Not only could I not call her, I had lost my map app. What if I couldn’t remember how to get to the apartment? What if I had a flat tire (if you read my blog you know that recently happened). I could feel my heart racing. I took a deep breath to calm myself down as I pulled out of the parking lot of Ikea. I had been to the apartment several times, I was fairly confident I could find it. Plus I realized I had my iPad which has the same map app, so I was fine there. And if I had a flat tire or an emergency I’d figure it out at that time. I made it to the apartment, and the person I was meeting was there. First crisis averted.

From panic to peace — What was most interesting, though, was what happened over the next 4 days. I didn’t have a cell phone. I was visiting with family and friends. I relaxed. No one could reach me, no one from work would call while I was with my family. I couldn’t check my emails. I couldn’t call anyone else. I found that I was “in the present’ more. I had to commit to a particular plan of action, and couldn’t change my mind, call someone and change our plans. You would think that all that opportunity to change your mind would put you “in the present”, but I found it was the opposite. I had to commit to a course of action, but once I did that I let go of all the mental chatter about possibilities, changes, decisions, and just experienced the present moment. If I really needed to make a call everyone around me had a phone, but I found that I didn’t even need or want to use anyone’s phone.

I reluctantly buy a temporary phone — I decided that if my iphone wasn’t turned in by Sunday night then I would go buy a no-contract, very inexpensive “temporary” phone (until the new iphones come out.. .a wait of a few weeks). When it was time to go buy this temp phone I found I was reluctant to do so. I didn’t really want a phone, but felt like I should have one for the drive back home from Chicago to Wisconsin. So I purchased a Net 10 no contract service and an LG phone.

Net 10 almost a flawless user experience — To activate the no-contract phone took about 3 minutes and was an easy and usable process and website. Wow, you rarely hear me say that!

(What to do BEFORE you lose or phone or it’s stolen) — Here’s an aside. I found out after I lost the phone that there are simple (and free) things you can do to protect your phone, your email, your passwords, and your data in the event your phone is lost or stolen. I didn’t realize this and I hadn’t done any of those things! Don’t be like me.

New iPhone on its way — Today I (along with probably millions of others) ordered an iPhone4. Everyone is oohing and aahing about this phone, but I am reluctant.  My days of no (or at least, limited), cell phone interruptions will be over. I’m thinking of having some cell phone moratoriums — days when I turn off my cell phone and go back to that living-in-the-present mindset.


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