Last weekend I broke my phone. To be precise, I lobbed it across the living room. Now, I am not an angry person and usually in control of my actions. Let me explain and set the scene: I was breastfeeding my 8 month old who refused to go to sleep, trying to eat my dinner at the same time, not having eaten for most of the day so I was excruciatingly hungry. I also tried to text my friends (yes, yes, I can hear you tut and shake your heads, she’s eating, breastfeeding and texting, how disgusting, PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN WOMAN!), organising a party or get-together for my daughter’s birthday, which, I hang my head in shame, I had completely forgotten. I was trying to multi-task like a dervish when my sweet, beautiful baby boy clamped down on my nipple with brute force, using his new, razor-sharp bottom teeth, and, whilst looking up at me, smiling, pulled on said nipple, not letting go. For those of you who can’t imagine what kind of pain this is, imagine a newly-sharpened blade of a knife cutting into your nipple. That should give you an idea. I squealed and screamed, tears in my eyes, close to crying. And then, like a knee jerk reaction, I threw my phone, filled with all the frustration of having too much to do and not enough hours in the day. I am sure that someone out there will judge me for throwing my phone, but let’s get something straight: I am a full-time working mother, getting between 2 and 3 hours sleep a night, leaving the house just after half past 6 and returning after 12 hours away. My brain and body are feeling the strain and I do not appreciate my nipple being sliced in two by anyone – not even my adorable, smiley baby boy. There are limits to anyone’s tolerance. Do I think it was stupid to throw my phone? Absolutely. I regretted it immediately and wondered if the half written message to my friend had sent by mistake. A few minutes later, baby finally asleep in my arms, I awkwardly hobbled over to the phone, picked it up, expecting to carry on where I had left off. Only, what greeted me was a dark screen with green streaks at the sides. What I held in my hand was a sad case of broken LCD screen. Panic set in immediately and I quickly searched my mind for the date I had last backed up all media. I realised that my photos were safe, but my notes and other information were not. Whilst my phone was dead from the outside, it was still very much alive on the inside. As if to taunt me, it kept bleeping and buzzing, informing me of messages and information coming through, all of which I could no longer access. I was in hell. After the reality of a broken phone had sunk in I sprung into action. I’m someone who has always got a plan B, C or D, if necessary, and once the baby was snoring peacefully I turned the house upside down to locate one of my old phones which, with great hindsight, I had kept. It was carnage – desperation creates chaos. There were piles of clothes flung on the bed, contents of drawers turned out and rammed in again, cupboards opened, briefly looked at and slammed shut. Of course, the replacement phone was hiding somewhere I had not remembered putting it but I was relieved when I found it and set to work changing the cards, checking what information I had lost and what was saved. Once I had the old mobile set up and running again you’d think I’d feel better. Far from it. I felt like someone had cut off my hair. Not life-threatening but still bad enough to affect my momentary well-being. I am missing valuable information and applications from my broken phone, but, to make matters worse, the replacement phone is so old that most of the applications I use on a daily basis are incompatible with it. It is making my insides shrivel up with horror. I used to think of myself as a patient and tolerant individual that was calm and collected when faced with tricky situations. Turns out I am wrong. Somehow, from when I studied the module of “The Information Society” at university, when all I had was one of those flippy-up phones, learning about the elimination of time and space, to the present, where I am a 21st century mother working full-time with two small kids, a mortgage, tons of responsibility and liability, my phone was the one thing that kept my life together. And I had completely lost any kind of consideration for a life without the technology that helps my life ticking over as neatly as possible. It suddenly dawned on me: I am a slave to my phone giving me everything I need immediately, quickly and efficiently. It’s my personal secretary, taking notes, documenting my children’s development via video or photo, it tells me where I need to be when and for how long and it provides updates on the world and my family, here and abroad, on a regular basis. It’s my personal researcher, communicator and my ultimate connection to everyone when I am apart from them. It has become so important that, like with many things, I don’t appreciate what it does and I also, as a lot of other people, spend too much time with it. It’s only when I don’t have it anymore I notice what has gone. And that fills me with great sadness. Not just my phone being broken but how reliant I am on this small bit of technology. If I am that obsessed with it, what will my children be like? In addition to that, the old phone takes about what feels like 5 hours to load up any application, let alone the Internet. I can feel myself getting more and more irate whilst I am waiting, impatiently, for the smallest snippet of information to pop up on the small display (and my God, it is small, how did I ever cope with the old Nokia brick?!). And don’t get me started on the battery. I can see the life draining out of it in proportion to my will to live whilst the damn thing is processing my latest demand of ordering a book on Amazon. I have a feeling the battery will die before I can place the order.
Another problem is that, when you rely on technology to capture your thoughts rather than pen and paper is, when things go tits up and the technology breaks, there is very often no way of recovering the information. If you use your phone like me to jot down all your thoughts into one place to access them later, you are screwed. I have diary entries, capturing cherished memories on said phone that, I fear, I may not be able to get back, because, shock horror, none of the standard programmes can read the notes from the application. And that makes me incredibly sad, too (and a little bit more furious with myself).
But let me also tell you that, apart from forcibly having to treat myself to a brand new phone, there have been other positives I have taken from this “traumatic” experience. I have written my notes down on paper again, carrying a notebook and pen with me when I am out and about. I have spent less time on social media and more time reading actual books. I have listened to the news on the radio rather than opening my BBC News App. And you know what? It’s actually much more fun. It may be less instant and carrying more things around with me other than my phone but my mind feels somewhat refreshed, having a break from getting everything it wants to know from my phone. Most importantly of all though I have made a conscious effort to leave my phone alone when I am with my kids. I figure that it’s tough enough them growing up in a day and age where time and space are eliminated and everyone is ruled by technology. They don’t need to get the impression from me that time and space disappear when they are with me. In the end, when I really think about it, my phone is less than nothing in comparison to my nearest and dearest. Even when little baby teeth try to shred my nipples to bits.