Life is sometimes sweeter when we’re forced to dial down our addiction to smartphones.
When I opened the locker at my local pool last week and found my wallet had been stolen, I was annoyed but not disheartened.
There was a fiver in cash, a few membership cards and a credit and debit card that would need cancelling.
Then I went to my other jeans pocket to make the call to the bank. But the pocket was empty.
It wasn’t just my wallet that had been taken, it was my mobile too. The iPhone 6 which I had paid for in full was gone and now everything was suddenly more serious.
I’ve been a moderate tech dork since I started covering the beat nearly ten years ago.
In that time I’ve become the guy who knows about niche apps, has learned how to take a decent pic with a smartphone and has developed quite the on-the-go email addiction.
But, until now, I had never had my phone taken away from me. Granted, I’d tried to leave it at home at quiet moments.
But since the dawn of Apple’s Health app, that meant I’d be unable to track my steps and distance covered in a day.
So now it always came with me. My iPhone had even turned the edges of my navy jeans’ pocket white.
Now though, I was going to have to cope without it. After that initial wave of deep concern, I took a step back and went through the necessary motions.
I called my insurance company. I logged onto iCloud and pulled my photos into a local folder and used Find My iPhone to remotely wipe the device (and leave a choice message for the person who’d pinched it).
What surprised me was the realisation that if you back things up properly, and have a decent insurance policy, sorting these things was surprising painless. Stashing everything in the cloud clearly has it uses.
But, as I got on the train home without a phone or wallet, I realised my usual physical tic, of reaching for my iPhone to flick through Twitter and Instagram, or browse promoted emails, wasn’t going to have a pay off.
Instead, I paid attention to my book for more than ten minutes.
It soon dawned on me that with the Bank Holiday approaching, I’d be minus a smartphone for a whole week. How would people contact me? And how would I make calls?
Well, Skype for desktop made life pretty easy when it came to calling the bank about fraud.
And it turns out email and social media were good for everything else.
Sure, there were on-the-fly things I could have used a smartphone for. Checking delayed trains from Kings Cross.
Using maps to locate a pub where my mates were. But by and large I could do these things before I left the house.
More than anything, though, I realised that I’ve become so addicted to my smartphone that I use it as a social security blanket, something to cling to and shut the world out when I have a spare few minutes.
It stops me from fully engaging with the latest episode of Mad Men, breaks my flow when I’m reading before going to bed, keeps me from looking up when I live in one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
Going cold turkey was surprisingly straightforward.
That’s not to say I’m happy that someone made off with a phone I saved hard for, or that it will doubtless go abroad and be sold on the black market because IMEI numbers can only be tracked in a home territory.
But it has made me realise that while these slices of technology have without doubt made our lives easier and often richer, they’ve stopped us spending time focusing.
My attention span appears to have grown longer in the past week. I’ve blitzed through books and sat with headphones on listening to whole albums on vinyl.
I haven’t been able to reach for a phone to tweet about what’s on Netflix, so I’ve fully engaged instead.
My new handset arrives today. And, yes, I’ll set it up within seconds of the courier leaving.
But I’ll be making sure it’s turned off at night, that the Health app stays unopened and that I only use it for email when it buzzes with a notification.