A couple of weeks ago, my student stole my phone right in front of me. I wrote about the experience extensively here, but during the whole process and ordeal, I didn’t have a phone for approximately 24 hours. I quickly learned the extent to which we rely on our phones on a daily basis, or at least the extent to which I rely on my phone.
Fortunately, I still could communicate with a lot of my contacts through iCloud and through my Mac. But I could only get in contact with friends who also communicated through Apple products. Any of my friends that communicated with me through Android were not able to keep in touch with me at the time. When I got a new SIM card into a friend’s old iPhone 6, I saw multiple green texts on my phone that I had overlooked, friends who were looking for rides or asking questions that I completely didn’t see.
I instinctually grab towards my pocket to look at my phone frequently and check notifications. I did that all the time after my phone got stolen only to get reminded that I didn’t have a phone anymore. The response was so conditioned because I’m so used to relying on my phone for so many things, like updates on the news, alarms, music, checking my e-mail, social media, checking the weather, and you name whatever else. I also do a lot of work on my phone, since short e-mails or communicating with parents are a part of my job, I couldn’t do much of that.
Right after school, I had to go to another location and building for training with my teacher program. I would scribble down directions from Google Maps, old fashioned style, and try to memorize the directions to get to my next location. Unfortunately, I took a wrong exit and got lost halfway through my drive, and although I have been an Uber and Lyft driver in Baltimore, I had no idea where I was going. I had to continually stop at street corners to ask people if they knew where my location was. I left about 30 minutes of extra time to get there and I still was late.
It wasn’t until I made a random stop in a laundromat and asked if they could look up directions for me that I knew where I was going. It was the grace and generosity of others that allowed me to make it to the building. I arrived to my training about five minutes late, and vented to my friends a bit about my frustration and everything that happened.
A couple of my friends said they texted me asking if I could help them and drive them home. I told them about the situation with my phone, and they reacted with shock. We finished the training and I graciously gave a friend that lived close to me a ride home, and it was a blessing because I didn’t exactly know where I was going. I had already put my phone in lost mode and then made sure the data was erased, hoping that at some point, I would get the phone back.
I couldn’t answer calls or texts from my parents or my brother. I couldn’t communicate much with my friends. I couldn’t even set an alarm as I usually would. Not having a phone felt strangely like not having a part of myself.
I quickly realized how much I relied on my phone and the extent to which it consumed my life. I would like to say that I had some epiphany moment that we rely too much on our phones, that I learned some lesson about our overreliance on technology, but I didn’t. I felt like how I used to as a middle schooler when I wasn’t playing an MMORPG I was addicted to. For almost a day, I didn’t even know what was going on in the news. And what would have happened if I had an emergency like a car accident or a sudden health problem?
Having my phone stolen felt like a personal transgression that tipped the threshold for misbehaviors for the student, so I pursued all avenues of justice. As a societal indication, a phone is not just a phone now, at least for me. A phone literally represented daily livelihood, not in the sense that I had an urgent need to check all my social media all the time, but that a smartphone in this day and age can feel like survival. You might be less dependent on your phone than I am, but think about how you would feel if you didn’t have your phone.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that your phone is also a big part of your life. I go to my phone for almost everything, so not having it for a day felt like withdrawal. It felt like I couldn’t communicate with anyone — and someone introduced to me the other day that you can even start paying at the register with your phone.
The episode revealed that I rely on my phone so much that I practically live vicariously through my phone, much like a parent can live vicariously through the success of a child. And I am in the majority of 83 percent of Americans who also are dependent on their cellphones, according to a 2011 Pew Research Survey. I can imagine that that number has only risen in the past nine years. It felt like I couldn’t even survive — and that’s the most alarming part of my dependence.
This is what happened when my phone got stolen, and I wouldn’t personally go through that ever again.