COLUMN: Living without ‘the device’

Are some people able to exist without smartphones?

Imagine a dark place.


You are alone with your thoughts.

There is no communication with the outside world.

You are in a void.

Your hands are empty.

You reach out, but there is nothing to grasp.

Is it a nightmare?

A dungeon?

An illness of the mind?

A tumble into another dimension?


Teen daughter lost her iPhone.

To be totally accurate, she didn’t “lose” it. Some young cretin stole it.

Nevertheless, the outcome and impact is the same.

Her connection to life is cut – life with a cell phone, that is. It’s not a pleasant thing to watch.

Panic. Depression. Fear. Outbursts of anger. Sadness.

You’d think she lost a best friend or something. In fact, I suggested that it could be worse. She could have, like, broken an arm or something.

This is worse, she said.

Actually, she was kidding. As difficult as it may be to comprehend for someone who has not lived through mobile device separation, it is survivable.

In fact, if you keep an open mind, it’s quite a freeing experience.

You have time to concentrate on something – anything – for more than a few moments, instead of constantly reading and responding to texts or tweets or twit-speak.

My kid belongs to a group chat, involving 20-plus girls. Now, put two dozen girls – all friends – in a room, without their cell phones, and try to monitor the multi-layered machine-gun conversations.

Now imagine all that streaming conciousness funnelled through a mobile device 24/7. OK, maybe 18/7.

Frankly, I have no clue how my teen manages to accomplish what she does in that maelstrom of idle digital dialogue.

If I had that level of text traffic on my iPhone, I’d drive a pen through its black little heart.

OK, I concede a point here. How could you

possibly live without knowing that (insert a name here) has broken up with (insert another name here) or that (insert name here) is having a party on such and such a date.

Was that being facetious? Perhaps a little.

Besides, there’s also the apparently outdated Facebook to communicate through. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.

In fact, the other night someone called her. On the phone! How retro!

My teen is not unique, although I would argue otherwise if ever challenged, and I’d also add that’s she’s probably at the top percentile of the teens you’d wish for as a parent, were we ever given forms to fill out before we became parents.

And wouldn’t that be a wonderful idea? Why do we allow some people to become parents at all? There are some who are bloody awful at it. In fact, they act as if they don’t want to be parents at all.

However, I digress.

Have we become so beholden to these devices that we can’t have conversations without texting? Is there no motivation left to communicate your thoughts, your identity, or even your activities, without these devices?

Think for a moment… about something so far-fetched as “an earthquake” in which everything we know as familiar in terms of electricity and telecommunications crumbles.

Micro case in point, the loss of a cell phone, albeit replaced by other digital means.

But if that’s no longer available? What then?

We start to talk to one another.

Strange concept. Strange day….

Andrew Holota is the editor of the Abbotsford News.