Like most Saturday evenings, this one started with a friendly gathering. A friend of mine recently got his very first office, so the occasion had to be properly celebrated. Of course, we had to be respectable and leave before 10.00pm — the office was in an apartment building and the inhabitants wouldn’t be happy about too much noice.
At around 1.00am and with a lot of empty bottles left behind we finally embarked on a journey from the new office on to the streets of Sofia. The mood was festive and we successfully reached our destination — one of the local bars we used to go to quite often. All it took was one familiar song associated with a shared memory and we were flapping and jumping around like kids.
A couple of minutes later I felt a weird lightness in my left pocket. The kind of empty pocket feeling that makes your heart rate spike, before you realise your actually holding your phone in your hand. Except this time, the only thing I had in my hand was a bottle of beer. Looking for the phone proved to be fruitless and we left in a less festive mood than we’ve arrived. I tried calling my number from a friend’s phone — it was ringing, but nobody was picking up. This gave me some hope that it wasn’t stolen.
What followed during the next couple of hours is what I want to talk about.
My phone is a 2-year old iPhone SE. It’s been dropped so many times, I’m a bit surprised it still works. It’s all scratched and dented, because I carry it around without a case. Feeling upset about losing it was in no way because of the monetary value of the phone. I was feeling concern, to a point of panic, about all the content on the phone and the thought of it landing in the wrong hands. Not only does it have all my Social Media accounts, but also my banking apps, my work email and other work-related apps.
Of course, it has a 6-digit passcode and I doubt anyone would bother trying to crack it, but the thought was there. I went home, opened my mac and logged out of everything on my phone remotely (the Find my phone option didn’t work, since my phone wasn’t connected to the internet at the time of disappearing).
The next morning I woke up and reached at my bedside table for my phone. My brain caught up with the most recent events and I felt the panic rise again. What if someone called? What if someone wrote me a message? I don’t even consider myself a phone addict — at least I didn’t until this happened.
I went out with my girlfriend and as we were walking around I could constantly feel that empty pocket. When she went inside a store and I waited outside, my brain immediately sent impulses to my hand to reach for my pocket and check if someone texted me or what’s new on Instagram. It’s like I was experiencing some form of withdrawal symptoms. It was scary to realise how dependent I am from this tiny device.
Later that day we tried calling my number again and a few minutes later we got a call back. It was a guy who said he’d found my phone last night on the floor of the bar and wanted to return it. I went to a local store, bought a bottle of whiskey and met up with the dude half on hour later. He gave me my phone back and I gave him the bottle as a token of appreciation. We both went our ways cheerful, and I — relieved.
I checked my phone — only missed calls I had were those I did myself from my friend’s phone the night before. No new messages, no new notifications. The world hadn’t changed much since yesterday.
Over the next few days I started noticing every time I unlock my phone just to see if I have any notifications. I’d like to make it my goal to try and do this less often; to resist this FOMO feeling, that’s making so many people anxious when their phone isn’t around. But it’s hard and I don’t really wanna feel disconnected from everything happening with my friends. Just like an addict — “I can stop whenever I want to, I just don’t want to right now.”
Sure, I might as well put #FirstWorldProblems, but I can’t help but feel that this really is a global problem. Can a person maintain a healthy social life, while staying away from their phone as much as possible? That’s not even an open question. I’d really like to know!