Two weeks ago I lost my smartphone.
On silent, my HTC One rang to itself over and over as I frantically tried to find it before leaving the office for the weekend.
I didn’t find it* and took the train home to Berkeley, phoneless for what I knew would at least be a weekend. I ended up being phoneless for almost two weeks. This is how it went.
As soon as I got to a computer, I posted to Facebook a pretty clever status to update my network on my current phone situation.
Despite earning double-digit likes, this status failed to notify everyone in my life of my phoneless-ness. The sheer number of missed calls from my parents approached double digits, as did the many text messages that will forever go unanswered. I knew I needed to plug back in as best as I could.
For a minute, in a nostalgia fuelled fury, I almost went out and bought a Motorola Razr. Why not? Before making my impulse purchase, however, I saw this Gizmodo post about using a Razr in 2014, and got a bunch of answers to the question, “Why not?”
I needed to get a smartphone without having an upgrade from my service provider. That’s generally pretty expensive, so I put it off for a while. I knew it would be hard, but I really had no idea exactly how much I used my phone. I was about to find out.
That first weekend I blew the dust off my iPad Mini, which I mainly just used at work, and downloaded all the essentials: Snapchat, Groupme, Yo, and Tinder. Using the aforementioned Big Four along with iMessage and FaceTime, I could now communicate and send ugly selfies to the people I love, while slowly building that network (Tinder, remember?)
But an iPad with bad, landlord-provided Wi-Fi will only get you so far. I could connect to the networks and tools I had grown to depend on, but I didn’t have the freedom to do so when and where I wanted. In the outside world, I was powerless and informationless. I bought a couple Frappuccinos just to connect to Starbucks’ Wi-Fi and check my email.
Whenever I saw something worth posting to Yik Yak, an anonymous gossip app, I couldn’t Yak. Even worse, my account with more than 2,300 “Yakarma” (the points you get when people upvote your posts) was tied to my physical phone. The thought of never seeing that account again kept me up at night (and was probably worth Yakking about).
Without connection to Facebook on the train, I resorted to real books for entertainment. I finished one and started another in my week-and-a-half phoneless period.
At one point, I tried to memorize turn-by-turn directions from Google Maps before leaving home. A mile down the road, I couldn’t remember whether to hang left or right, and had to ask a fellow pedestrian where the nearest Chase Bank was. He didn’t know either. My phone always knew. Chase Bank ended up being right in front of my face.
While I was certainly still a little stuck in my tech-dependent bubble, I did start to feel some positives come from the detox. I stopped reaching for my pocket during awkward silences, and made friendly small talk with strangers in the elevator for the first time in my life, and perhaps theirs, too. On the Fourth of July, I met up with Business Insider tech reporter Sam Colt, and he met me in the exact spot we’d agreed to earlier over Facebook chat. I started thinking I might not need a phone after all.
Then I saw it: The Craigslist posting for a barely used Nexus 5, unlocked and looking for a new owner. A Nexus, for a fistful of cash less than Google’s asking price, was just a train ride away in San Francisco’s Mission neighbourhood, and I jumped at the opportunity to reconnect.
I reached out to my seller/saviour over email. I messaged my friends and family, telling them that if I encountered a Craigslist killer I wouldn’t be able to call for help and they could have my stuff.
I met the guy at the predetermined street corner, which I navigated to using street signs. I paid him in cash, powered up my phone, and joined him and the rest of the smartphone-using population in the modern world. My conclusion: It’s better here, even without the elevator smalltalk.
*Note: I actually did find my old phone a few days after buying the Nexus when it fell out of my chair in the Business Insider office. That’s just the way the world works sometimes, huh?