Opinion | Columnists

In search of a simple life

Louisa Wilkins talks about the nitty-gritty of the daily grind

  • By Louisa Wilkins, Acting Editor, Aquarius magazine
  • Published: 11:59 March 5, 2013
  • Aquarius

  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • "Friends and family were becoming exasperated – some of them begging me to get a new phone so they could get in touch easily."

I have a love-hate relationship with mobile phones – I love them but they seem to hate me. So I go through them like a child goes through crayons.

When I lost my first phone in Dubai, a friend saved my new number as Louisa2. When it got up to Louisa10, he stopped saving them. I’ve never lost a wallet or a handbag. I lost a car key once, but it found its way back to me. So I’m not careless. But phones, well, they seem to simply walk away.

And not only have I lost more than is considered normal and acceptable, I’ve had more than my fair share die on me, too. Sympathetic friends often donate their old phones to me, knowing I will need them at some point. Within weeks these perfectly good devices give up the ghost. It’s like they do it on purpose. When five second-hand mobiles broke within three months, I started to think I might have a magnetic energy field that interferes with their ability to work.

Sitting at my dining table one afternoon trying various permutations of old phones, batteries and battery chargers (my house is like a mobile graveyard), I lost it with upcycling. I went out and bought a brand-new, all-singing, all-dancing BlackBerry.

Six weeks later, when my beloved BB ran off with a taxi driver, I decided enough was enough. It was time to go it alone, without a mobile in my life.

It’s a hard decision to make. Mobiles are not just gadgets or fashion accessories, they are an integral part of daily life. According to various studies, 80 per cent of people don’t leave home without them; 67 per cent of people check them when they haven’t beeped (apparently we get a dopamine hit when we get a message); and according to Time magazine, 84 per cent of people couldn’t last a day without their mobile. So it seemed like a radical move, but I was determined.

After two days of finger twitching, being mobile-free was liberating. Family time was less interrupted, dog walks more relaxing and I felt more able to focus on the present. I saw it as being halfway to a ‘digital detox’, which seems to be all the rage.

Wellbeing resorts are offering digital detox packages; others are giving discounts to people willing to hand in their phones on arrival; experts are advocating being digital-free one day a week; bars are running digital detox nights to encourage talking and I had given up my mobile. I felt like I was part of a revolution, rebelling against time-sucking technology. It felt like a statement of wanting something more substantial out of life. A back-to-basics, tree-hugging, family-prioritising pledge. I felt like I’d turned my back on the rat race to lie in the long grass. I laughed in the face of technology. Thou shalt not be constantly contactable. Life shall be simple and good.

Only it wasn’t. By the end of week one my life was in chaos. I didn’t have an alarm clock so had to ask friends for wake-up calls. I kept missing the house phone because the only phone line is downstairs, and I had no idea who had called so I couldn’t call back. I never knew the time. I forgot my brother’s new villa number and had to knock on doors until I found him. I had to take all my personal calls at my desk.

I knew only five people’s numbers. I had to start carrying a diary. When I was running late, I couldn’t warn anybody. And I couldn’t spontaneously change plans.

Friends and family were becoming exasperated – some of them begging me to get a new phone so they could get in touch easily. My mother said I needed one for security. “It’s simply not safe,” she said. “What if something happens while you’re driving?”

So after three weeks of mobile-free living, I sheepishly returned to the shop like a repentant lover and got myself the cheapest (non-singing, non-dancing) phone they had. Fact is, life without a mobile may be more focused, but it’s less connected.

It may be more simple, but it is infinitely less easy. So my relationship with mobiles carries on. It’s rocky and unstable, but I’m willing to take the rough with the smooth. 

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