Last week, The Pride spoke to tech-savvy Singaporeans who choose to stay away from social media, in a bid to protect their privacy and prioritise real-life relationships and interactions. Our social media-obsessed young writer takes up our challenge of a 24-hour digital detox – and survives to tell us how she got through life without a smartphone.
It is my second soul. My best friend, almost. It is everything I needed to get through the day or just to pass the time. It keeps me company when I feel lonely and bored.
But no, I’m not talking about a pet or a boyfriend. I’m just describing my attachment to my mobile phone.
Therefore, when my editor asked me if I was down to giving up my mobile phone for 24 hours, I blacked out for moment. I didn’t know how to feel. My mind went on autopilot and I accepted. I then thought, “How hard can it be?”
That thought was a little too soon.
However, I did not pass out. Neither did I die, as you can see I survived to tell the story – my story – of a 19 year old who was deprived of her phone for 24 hours.
I kicked off the challenge by handing my phone over to the authorities – in this case, my parents.
I felt anxious. The handing-over-of–the-phone ceremony felt like it was in slow motion. My palms were sweating and I was worried that a friend would message me at that very second. I was hoping for a notification, any type of notification, to sound off – an Instagram post alert or breaking news of a train breakdown. Anything to delay the handover.
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It took me a minute to let go of my phone. If it had not been for my mother yanking it off my grasp, I don’t think I would have relinquished it of my own will.
I felt very uneasy for the first hour without my phone. It was a tension I felt, like I had to be on guard, on alert, because it wasn’t safely by my side. I fell asleep worrying that I may have missed an urgent call from a friend.
Not having a phone meant no instant communication with friends, and on that day, I was going on an outing with a group of them. I would not be able to message them on where we were supposed to meet and what time. It had great potential to go completely wrong.
As a result of my lack of a communications device, my friends and I had to concoct a very detailed plan the previous evening. It made me feel slightly uncomfortable, given the fact that I’m not one to make such a specific plan, let alone follow it religiously.
I felt like I was missing something. It held me back. I kept checking with my mother to confirm that she had my phone before I finally left the house half an hour later.
Getting to my destination was a whole different wave of awkwardness. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, whether to put them in my pockets or cross my arms.
I didn’t have a physical book to read since all my books were saved in my phone nor could I listen to music since I didn’t have my Spotify to listen to my playlists.
It felt like I went straight into battle unarmed.
Since I was lucky enough to get a seat, I decided to just take a nap. For the whole 50-minute train ride.
It was peaceful. The teen sitting beside me had his earpiece turned into a speaker, so I could hear the EDM music he was listening to. The soft conversations around were slightly distracting but it was sort of relaxing as well.
I guess the thing about having a phone is that it’s also a form of escape. We use our phones to avoid various awkward situations or just to escape the ever busy reality.
I felt somewhat left out when my friends were all on their phones and all I had to look at was a menu during one of those moments where you’re all waiting for your food to arrive and your group of friends have nothing interesting to say.
They were scrolling through social media while I was looking through entrées. I didn’t care about knowing how the salmon was slow cooked to perfection, I just wanted to know who posted an Insta-story on Instagram.
I wanted to snatch their phones so badly and check my social media feed!
I felt like the odd one out. I felt like I wasn’t updated or current enough to be with my circle of friends.
I sat there in front of them, staring at how much attention they were giving to their smartphones. It was almost like they were in a trance. It was like watching a zombie scene from the Walking Dead.
Yet it was an interesting sight. I realised that it wasn’t just my group of friends who were busy on their phones. It was the whole café. More than half of the customers were on their phones and had little to no contact with the people they were with.
The sight painted a whole new picture for me. Instead of being more connected to one another, I saw how we had become more disconnected with the ones we were with at that very moment.
When the day ended and I finally got my phone back in my possession, I discovered I had several messages and missed calls from my family and friends.
There wasn’t anything important happening, they just wondered why I didn’t reply sooner.
They were accustomed to and wanted a reply instantly, and that made me think, have we really become that impatient? I could completely understand if it had been an emergency, but asking me what Instagram caption to use for a post doesn’t really require such urgency.
When I explained to them that I went for a day without my phone, all of the responses I got were almost the same.
“Why would you do that to yourself?”
They said this as though it wasn’t possible for one to survive a day without their phones. If it had been possible for me, I’m pretty sure it would be possible for anyone else. Few appreciated the fact that I disconnected from my social media. They thought it was cool but at the same time they found it intimidating.
There were some parts of the day when I felt like time was moving too slowly, but it kind of reminded me to take things more slowly. Taking my time to walk around the city without accidentally bumping into others who were also busy with their smartphones, or just having heartfelt conversations with my friends without being distracted by notification alerts was something I had never done before this.
At the end of the day, not everything that happens on social media is important. I realised that you don’t have to know what everyone is doing or eating 24/7. The world did not end when I missed a notification from a celebrity or a friend.
It might end if I miss a phone call from my mother, but other than that, not having a phone is not completely horrible at all.
Written by Julia Lachica, 19, who recently graduated with a diploma in mass communication. She is a social media junkie and one of those rare unicorns who love dogs and cats in equal measure.