Take time to lay off the phone [UPDATED]Published 10:30am Monday, February 4, 2013 Updated 12:31pm Monday, February 4, 2013
I was in a brief moment of panic this week.
As I do several times throughout the day, I glanced at my iPhone. Nothing. I was sure I had forgotten to charge it the night before. I plugged it in for a minute. Still nothing. Oh no! Did I wreck it when snow hit it while taking a cool photo of the snowfall the night before? The vision went through my head of having no phone for days while I waited for mine to either get fixed, or to obtain another phone.
Five minutes later, I looked at my phone again. It indeed was still working, but the charge was just really, really low, and need a full-bore, give-’er-all-you got charge. A wave of relief swept over me.
Five minutes after that, I thought to myself, are you serious?
I don’t think I’m breaking ground here by saying that we as a society are addicted to our cellular phones. We talk on them. We text on them. We check emails on them. We take photos on them. We watch videos on them (my daughter’s favorite). We read the Internet on them. We read books on them. We play games on them. We figure out where we’re going on them. We check the time on them. We check our calendars on them. We listen to music on them. We listen to talk radio on them. We track our calorie intake on them. We record our calorie output on them. We record how fast we can ski down a hill on them. We tune our guitars on them. We check recipes on them. We even receive counseling services from them (Siri).
How did people live without them? How did I live without them?
While mobile phones were invented in the 1940s, we all know they really didn’t become a regular item in the pockets of ordinary people until, say, the 1990s. I watched “16 Candles” the other day, and it dawned on me that, when that movie came out in 1984, the lead character was driving around in his friend’s dad’s car, talking on a mobile phone. That, my friends, was a really big deal back then.
I don’t remember anyone having mobile phones when I was in college (1988-1993). It wasn’t until 1994 or 1995 when I can remember someone I knew having one. I believe I finally purchased a mobile phone in 1998. It was one of those blue Nokia models with the gray and black screens. I don’t think texting was a part of it.
Only 20 years ago, we were phoneless. It’s hard to believe.
The question is, could we be phoneless again? Should we?
Last month, I went on a vacation to Lutsen Mountain. My intention was to avoid work. It didn’t happen. Anytime there was a moment where I didn’t have activity, I checked my phone. It probably wasn’t the smartest move to be taking off my gloves while sitting 15 feet above ground on the ski lift chair, checking my email. Good luck finding the phone if you drop it. Yet, there I was, forwarding emails on whether we had enough paper for print customers, whether we had filled out a survey for an advertiser, or whether we had put a press release in the paper for a particular organization.
Did those emails really need to be answered at that precise time, as I was heading up the slope? Clearly not. Such emails weren’t answered 20 years ago. Most weren’t even using email 20 years ago.
Smart phones are beneficial because they allow us to be available 24 hours per day. They are also a problem because they allow us to be available 24 hours per day.
There are laws against texting and driving. There is physical therapy available for “cell phone neck.” The next thing should clearly be that, along with quitting smoking, curbing alcohol use, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and getting enough sleep, the doctor probably should recommend, at least a few hours per day, and a few days per month, to turn off the cell phone, and stay off it.
Sometimes, it’s good to disconnect.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org