Dumbphoneded*: How Losing My Phone Put My Reliance Into Perspective

Illustration by Rachel Gordon.

The cell phone is the piece of technology that singlehandedly defines my generation. They are our means of keeping connected, informed, and cultured; our memory capturers, our notetakers, our calculators, and our timewasters. Thus, when my iPhone was stolen, they way I interacted with the world changed.

I was paranoid of wandering outdoors for fear of getting jumped (when in actuality the target of many street crimes are the cellphones themselves), worried about using public transportation in case I head in the wrong direction (even though I’m relatively well acquainted with Toronto, and there are these great direction assistance units all around the city called other people) and anxious of attending parties (just in case, god forbid, I would actually have to talk to a stranger rather than keep faux busy on my phone while waiting for friends to return). This of course, is an exaggeration to help prove my point, but without my phone, I was frustrated for being left behind while the information world carried on, and even more so, frustrated for being so incredibly impacted by my “loss”. When something so entwined in your everyday existence disappears, it puts your reliance into perspective.

I would like to say that I used this eye-opening experience to divorce myself from technology, and reclaim the analogue world, unaided by digital crutches… but instead, I rushed over to the Apple Store the next morning and purchased a new iPhone. “It’s an investment,” I reassured my weak and pathetically distressed self, “it’s what you know.” Content with my purchase, I stepped out of the store, a frighteningly expensive drawstring bag wrapped around my wrist twice. Twenty minutes later, I returned to the store and gave back the phone. Apparently my 24 hours of cellular “deprivation” had actually taught me something; I would make do with what I had.

What I did have was an Android device, in particular, a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 (not the one that explodes), a contest prize that I had been meaning to sell, but fortunately, hadn’t. I count myself very, very lucky that my “back up” device was a high calibre machine, but as someone who was indoctrinated into the cellular data revolution five years ago through the iPhone, change was strange.

I miss the simplicity of the iPhone’s OS: apps were easy to acquire and easy to locate, unwanted pop-ups were almost non-existent, and the screen displayed crisp and colourful images. But most of all, I miss my familiarity with the device: my fingers knew the keyboard and the keyboard knew my vocabulary. At the same time, I appreciate my Android device’s customization, and incredibly fast charging abilities.

Ever the optimist, I’d like to find a silver lining to this phonedamentally* unpleasant debacle. Being phoneless, even for a short period of time, was admittedly difficult for me, and the realization of my reliance on the device was eye-opening and worrisome. Secondly, I’m too young to be stagnant, and my resistance to change was a similarly interesting experience.

I’m still becoming accustomed to new phone ownership, and hovering in the limbo between being an iPhone and Android user. My Android still doesn’t listen to me; gestures go unacknowledged, unintentional screen changes occur, and I constantly accidentally trigger buttons that I forget are there. At the same time, friends’ iPhones feel foreign in my grasp, and I find myself ironically missing the Galaxy device’s additional buttons. I have, however, finally bought a case for my new phone. So I guess we’re now official.

I’d like to conclude by lamenting how ridiculous this experience has been. The sense of hopelessness and fear I derived from losing an electronic device was very much a ‘first world problem’. While writing this piece, I’ve felt very uncomfortable about coming across as entitled and self-absorbed; I dislike this person who speaks about a non-essential luxury item as if it were their entire world. Much of the frustration I incurred throughout the process of losing my phone, and in writing this, was from realizing how intellectually, physically and even emotionally reliant I was on a device. My very brief period of phonelessness offered me some perspective on my unhealthy relationship with technology. I’m cognizant and filled with a little self loathing every time I reach for my phone as a distraction from reality, but at the same time, even more grateful for it.


About author

Katrina is a writer and photographer at Live in Limbo. You can follow her musical adventures at @thekatalysts.