The Art of Disconnecting Karen Belz

I can guarantee that at least half of you reading this are in very close proximity to your cell phone. Perhaps you’ll even take a glance at it once or twice – or, perhaps you’re checking out this article from your portable screen while waiting for a friend to get ready, or an appointment. Obviously, as it’s 2011, you are not alone.

According to an article by technobolt.com, two hundred trillion text messages are received in America every day, and 5 billion mobile apps were downloaded in 2010. Forty two percent of teens say they can text message accurately while blindfolded.  I’m impressed, as I can barely text message with full vision. (Why does “out” always turn into “MTV”? I hate you, auto correct!)

Despite two hundred trillion seeming like a excessive number, should we really be surprised? When was the last time you went to the movies without someone’s LCD screen lighting up midway through? Or actually had a sit-down conversation with a friend that didn’t include the beeping and buzzing of e-mail and facebook notifications? Should we be ashamed by these findings?

As per usual, Saved By the Bell happened to address these issues before cell phones could even fit in your pocket. In spite of the fact that my love for this show knows no bounds (besides The New Class, but that doesn’t count) this season three clip shows how excessive cell phone usage could tear your family apart.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5uPHr65QV0

If only someone could pull Mr. Morris aside and let him know what the future would bring. Cell phones today can essentially serve as your lifeline. So many people would be devastated – if not a bit lost – if their phone disappeared. Even if they make a quick stop at the grocery store and leave their phone at home, there’s an instant disconnect. “What if someone is trying to reach me?”

Personally,  I’m a bit of a hypocrite – while I can easily forget my dinky little Samsung in my purse for a day, I grow weary and concerned if I call my family and can’t immediately reach them. I understand that the fear is completely irrational, but the whole attitude of constantly being connected in some form can make even brief spans of inaccessibility completely nerve-wracking. Of course, my mind always wanders towards the worst case scenarios: “What if they were stabbed?”

I think the most important part of cell phone usage is making sure where to draw the line. By not giving your phone the pressure of being your second brain, you alleviate the need to constantly check up with it during the day. Even if this means memorizing two or three of your close friend’s phone numbers – which seems like a daunting task now, but something we all excelled at as kids. And I need to remember that even if my Dad doesn’t pick up, it means he could be out with family or friends. Which is exactly what I want him to do.

We should also stop reaching for our phones while we’re catching up with friends. You have no clue how many times I’ve seen a circle of girls typing away on their phones while completely ignoring each other during a night out. Whenever I’m in the midst of a conversation and see a friend get distracted by an incoming text, I think it’s kind of rude. Then I wonder… Am I really that boring?

In summary, I think it’s important to know that you don’t always need to be technologically connected. It’s okay if you put your phone on silent for a night. It’s also okay if you can’t update your facebook status while going out for sushi with friends. I’m not even going to lecture on talking or texting while driving, since we should all know by now how dangerous that could be. While cell phones should enhance our lives, they shouldn’t be so important that we aren’t ourselves without them, nor should we be more focused on broadcasting our events instead of actually enjoying them to the fullest.

Friends? Let me hear it. How long do you think you could survive sans-cell phone? Are you an old curmudgeon like me, who doesn’t even have Internet capabilities on their phone? Are you guilty of texting-while-socializing? And finally, is anyone willing to downgrade to the Saved by the Bell model? I’d give it a shot. I mean, at least it’d never get lost.

Photo Credit: crazygirlnation.com

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  1. after my mom seperated from her husband my cell phone w/ texting got cut off. I was ADDICTED to this thing. The keyboard was black from all that chitter chatter I made. I had to get a phone on a college kids budget. Now I own a flip phone with ZERO texting, zero internet, and I love it. My mind is clear now and I don’t really rely on it. My wallet thanks me and my thumbs thank me.

  2. This is so true, and it’s almost impossible to go anywhere without it because like you said, people think you died if you don’t answer your phone. Personally, I hate having a phone. When I was ten it was ridiculous for a kid that age to have a phone and parents hated them. Now parents freak out if you don’t have your phone with you.

  3. Great post! As this is my first year anniversary with my cellphone (also a really old one that was handed down to me by my sister) I think I could do without it. I find cellphones sort of annoying anyways haha But of course they are great for texting and planning dates with friends! But lately I’ve been wanting to get rid of it A LOT.

  4. This is an awesome article! Just 2 days ago I went out for ice cream with an old friend and I found it very insulting that whilst she was telling me the story of her latest conquer not once did I peruse my iPhone, I listened carefully, gave inputs when the time was right and gave her my opinion and advice when she ended. However when it was my turn and I was telling her how my mom have me the best advice ever, she kept checking her Facebook and her “BFFs” (don’t get me started on them) kept sending her BBM messages…At one point I just shut up and let her send her texts, she noticed I stopped talking 5 seconds later…. Can I translate this into Spanish and post it on Facebook and/or Tmblr? I promise to give you all the credit and even put a link to the original article. This is so good I want all my friends to read it

  5. So true! Sometimes I leave my phone at home or turn it off on purpose just to be disconnected!

  6. I definitely agree with this entry. We are a part of a button clicking culture where people have manufactured a need for their cellphones, thus making it harder to master the art of disconnecting. But as you also mention, we need to be able to draw the line, make some rules in regards to the use of cellphones in specific contexts etc.

    In reference to this entry, I would recommend that you watch this talk by Amber Case: http://www.ted.com/talks/amber_case_we_are_all_cyborgs_now.html. It is a very interesting talk about the culture of technology and how the self has been extended because of this culture.

    Thank you for sharing, Karen.

  7. WITHOUT my cellphone, I am an unhappy person lol but I have stayed away from the text craze….not to say I DON’T text, I do, but maybe only 2 a day…that’s about my average. I promised myself I would never text while I’m socializing, I try never to pull out my phone when I’m with friends. :-) Personal rule! Great article Karen! :-D

  8. I agree wholeheartedly with your post! We’re so plugged in at all times compared to … what? Three, four years ago? It’s so strange at times to realize how second nature it is to answer a text while talking to a friend or while you’re eating dinner and having a conversation, you stop right in the middle of a sentence to check an alert coming from an app or something to reply right away. I have a rule now where I don’t use my phone at dinner or at the movies. Or if I do, I ask if it’s all right.

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