Unplug It in, Unplug It in

Trigger warning: brief mention of dermatillomania


I broke my phone a few weeks ago.  My iPhone 5, that I had already broke twice before by dropping it, was finally dead. It drowned, lost at sea forever, in the washing machine.

Now, I could have gotten an iPhone 6 as a replacement right away, but I felt that it was the perfect time to get out of the Apple ecosystem. The iPhone 7 doesn’t even have a headphone jack – just no, man.

So I ordered a Google Pixel, and even with expedited shipping, it would not arrive for about three weeks.

No phone for three weeks. No texting, no calling, no Snapchat, no Instagram, NO POKÉMON GO. It was tragic. I checked out an iPad from my university library, but that only made the things I could do already on my own computer more portable. It didn’t even work off campus, so if I went off alone I would have no way of contacting anyone.

And I survived.

My phone did arrive a week early, but still, I had two weeks without a cell phone, without most social media.

Without Snapchat at first, I felt like I was out of the loop. I kept seeing moments as things that I would have put on my story – but towards the end of the two weeks, I stopped thinking that. I could just enjoy the moment. Same with Instagram, I no longer had the option to view all these pictures of people’s happy lives and worrying about how many likes I got. Pokémon Go though, I was just sad I couldn’t play it.

I’m constantly plugged in, eyes on my phone screen. I have to charge my phone multiple times a day. I read on my phone, pay for things on my phone, do homework on my phone, do everything on my phone – I even listen to music on it, even when I sleep. I only turn my phone off, ever, when I’m in a movie theatre, because I’m not an asshole.

I missed my phone, I missed everything that was on it, I missed being able to interact with people the way I used too. The point of this article is not to be “unplug and you’ll life will be better!! Snake people are such hunched-neck zombies!!” Nah man, I’m glued to my new phone, I cheered when it came a week early, but I learned that I can live without it, even if not being able to communicate without Wi-Fi is super inconvenient.

Older generations say that we youngsters don’t know how to communicate anymore, that we don’t know how to build connections and intimacy in a digital age. But what the fuck do they think we are doing on our phones?

Yeah, I’m playing Pokemon GO constantly, but I’m mostly talking with friends. So what if it’s not face-to-face? So what if it’s not through a phone call? Thanks to things like Snapchat, I stay constantly connected to friends from school who live on the other side of the country during summer breaks. There never had to be this awkward catching up period, like the “what you missed on last week’s episode” recaps. And kind of ironically, without that glass screen that allowed me to reach people, I felt like I was trapped behind a glass wall. I was without the intimacy of a friend sending me a triple-chin picture, or without the thoughtfulness of being able to send a picture to a friend when I saw something that made me think of them.

I got used to this over the time when I was forced off the grid. I was annoyed at first, and still annoyed whenever I had to venture off campus and be without the iPad or my computer, my only campus wifi-locked ways of communication. Even in class I was annoyed, because I never pay attention. I’m a terrible student when it comes to classroom etiquette. AND I MISSED POKEMON GO, OKAY?

But like, the day before my phone arrived, I thought I kinda liked it. I liked being able to have my distance, to be alone (my relationship with aloneness seems to be my theme this year) surrounded by friends instead of strangers. I liked not having the pressure of always being on-call, or always being with someone else. I could read in the library without the temptation of playing Two Dots. I even felt, which surprised me, more comfortable in going to the dining hall alone?

Having my phone back did change some things. I still post on Snapchat, but I’m finding that I’m posting less in my story and instead sending direct messages to the people I actually want to talk too. I’m still posting on Instagram, but I’m scrolling less. Tumblr I’ve barely been on, my queue has been empty for over a week, and I have no real desire to fill it – I’m not concerned with my follower count, or about missing something crucial. I rarely read on my phone, I don’t always put music on when I’m walking somewhere, and sometimes I even fall asleep without music (which was honestly something I did not think was possible).

It’s finals week, so of course I’m stressed, but I feel less stressed. I’m not breaking out as much, which means that my dermatillomania isn’t blatantly red across my face.

Do I still love social media? Yes. Do I still hate it when old people rag on it? Yes. Do I still spend a majority of my time on it? Yes.

But can I live without it? Yes.


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Post Author: Michelle

Michelle is a third year communications major who can’t communicate. You can read more about her on her author page.

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