Six months without an iPhone: Shotgun

Last week I bought an iPhone 4S, ending six months without a smartphone of any kind. I didn’t choose to go without an iPhone for that long. Instead, fate made that decision for me. Now that I’m back among the connected, I’ve revised my opinion of the thing and, more importantly, the sense of dependence I had built around it.

Last week I described how I lost the iPhone, and this week I’ll discuss the lessons I learned while living without it.

Panic time

My first reaction was, I’m ashamed to say, a mild panic. How would I stay connected to work? Now I’d only be able to read and respond to email while I was at my desk. No more IRC access, Twitter, text messages [1. Or phone calls. They make phone calls, right?]. I was sure I would “miss something” important.

Not to mention idle time spent in line. That was time I typically spent checking Twitter or playing a quick game. I was out of sorts. Life without an iPhone would be a big change.

Of course, nothing helps you accept change like having it thrust upon you.

Soon I had to make a trip into New York City. It would be the first trip I took without my iPhone in a long time. How would I mange without connected apps? Surely people managed interstate travel before smartphones existed.

I grabbed a pen and a notebook and figured out how to manage an out-of-state business trip without a smartphone. Not only did the trip go splendidly, I wasn’t observing my trip through a blue, glowing rectangle. Instead, I was watching the trip itself.

I was riding shotgun.


Perhaps you’ve had an experience like this. You own a car and typically do the driving. Then, for whatever reason, you spend a trip in the passenger seat and a route you’ve driven countless times looks different. No longer required to watch the road and the other motorists, you can look at passing houses and buildings, playgrounds, corner stores and more. You see things you never noticed despite having driven past them time and again.

Now that I was observing my life and not just its most tweetable moments, I felt more relaxed. I was living in that moment, not 30 seconds into the future (“Can’t wait to tweet that.” “I have to get a picture of this.” “Let me put this in Simplenote.”).

As far as missing work, what happened was this: I limited work to work time. No more checking “one more thing” while my kids ordered ice cream. No, I ordered ice cream, too, and didn’t give a flying fig about email. Because work time was over.

That’s not to say I never missed it. I most felt its absence while driving, as I love listening to my music and podcasts in the car. I also missed being able to take a photo at any moment.

But that was really it. I was riding shotgun, noticing my world, enjoying leisure time (really enjoying it, not that bullshit “I’m not working!” lie we workaholics tell ourselves) and not missing my iPhone. Much.

I know this all sounds like hippy-dippy “I’m OK, you’re OK” BS. But honest to goodness, it’s not. It’s A-OK and even pleasant to be disconnected for hours at a time. Humans have been doing it for countless thousands of years. And it’s nice. Really nice.

Next time I’ll describe getting it back and the small handful of apps I’ve installed.