About six months ago, me and my trusty flip-phone were pushed (kicking and screaming) into forced obsolescence. I had coddled it for about two years before; slowly accepting that I had to stab at the letter’s “XYZ” at least three times to make the button work, and that messages could often take several hours to send and receive. My friends understood that texting was becoming challenging at best, and that a random emoji, no matter how cute, would never reach me through my aging gadget.
But, I persevered until November, pretending it didn’t matter, until suddenly the only word I could type for an entire week was “Hector”. I’ll spare you the stories, but no matter what I started to press, it defaulted to the very unknown and annoying Hector. I dug my heels in, and managed without one for a few weeks, but eventually common sense overruled my stubbornness, and I gave in and bought a smartphone (i.e. the dumbest, least expensive smartphone I could find). I said good-bye to my flip-phoning Hector, and put him carefully away – reluctantly, not wanting to let go of the beloved saved texts and button-pushing memories.
After all, I only needed it for texting and the occasional phone call, so I vowed from the beginning to never go on the Internet, or check my email while sitting in traffic – I was determined not to become one of those people.
Then my daughter went away for a week. We texted back and forth, and because I wanted to text her good-night, I would take it upstairs to bed with me (well aware that teenagers stay up much later than their tired parents). One night, when I went to bed far too early, I wondered if I had received a reply to an email from the day before; just the thought of getting out of bed, and turning on the computer seemed like too much work, so I looked at my phone, and found google…
That was it. For the next three nights I would lie in bed, hunched over my phone looking up information, scrolling through clothes on ebay, and texting my daughter. I was hooked. Some days, I went to bed just so that I could look at the little information-filled gadget in front of me. I would lie until my shoulder hurt, and my eyes stung – way past my usual bedtime.
Not a book or magazine was read, and there was no drifting off to sleep listening to the frogs or the falling rain outside, imagining all sorts of wonderful thoughts. I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was see what I could find on the glowing rectangle in front of me.
After a few days, I noticed my neck hurt, and the pile of magazines had built up. I was beginning to get curious as to what had happened to the heroine in my book, the furrow between my eyes had deepened, and I missed the comfort of silently lying awake in the darkness before I went to sleep.
Those who write about this stuff, always go on and on about how if you sleep with your phone it will damage your brain, you will sleep poorly, or it will spontaneously combust on your pillowcase, but I think the problem is much simpler than that – it’s just bad for us. After a week of doing it, I began to miss what was actually happening around me, and even though I became hooked on the screen (and the feeling of having access to everything in the world) it wore me out, and I never went to sleep peacefully at all.
As a smartphone newbie, it scared the hell out of me. Now, I leave it in the kitchen, and am happy to be going back to bed with a snoring dog, an open window, and a worn, paperback novel.
For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to: http://www.thebluegiraffe.com/