My First Year With a Smart Phone

Slightly over a year ago, my best friend shoved her old iPhone into my hands and said something like, ‘It’s time! Please use this.’ And so my journey began. After a month of constantly charging the out battery and yet loving my new smarty pants life, I decided to man up, and shell out over half a grand for a new iPhone SE.
I grumbled as I walked into the Verizon store, muttered under my breath as I looked at overpriced cases and screens and felt utter remorse as I walked out poorer yet somehow more equipped. After a few purchases on Amazon to protect my pocket computer and several hours of downloading apps and playing around with all the new-to-me features, I fell in love completely. This cycle is somewhat familiar as usually I’m immediately repelled by something or someone only to fall head over heels the next week. It’s odd, yet consistent and therefore I prepared to enter the honeymoon phase.

As a way-late-to-the-game smart phone user, I wanted to share my observations and experiences of my transition. In the past, I was never a phone person. I’d lose my flip phone for days at a time or let my nephew chew on it, only to have his slobber seep in and make it disfunctional and still not really worry about it, but this is more than a phone, it’s a lifeline and its cord is now wrapped around my neck, let me explain to you just how tightly..

As a smart phone user, I fit in. I don’t receive sidelong glances or ‘OMG, you still rock a flip phone!?!’ Comments anymore. I can bring my phone out at work without feeling unprofessional and it’s no longer a topic of conversation amongst all my friends. I’m no longer Schu who has a flip phone. I’m simply Schu. 
Where do I begin? Let’s start with my number one love, my profession, photography. 

The camera is amazing. HDR capabilities and a front facing camera, holy shit, what a difference. This is both good and bad. I’ve stopped taking my DSLR everywhere, which is nice for my back and my woes about it being broken, lost or stolen, but obviously the images are not the same caliber. Even though the file sizes are quite different and the depth and detail is completely lost, smart phones take an amazing image and this fact shouldn’t be overlooked. The live view photo feature on newer iPhones is absolutely awesome. The moments before and after the shutter clicks warms my heart, make me laugh till I cry or cringe with embarrassment, all of which I’m  thankful to have on record. The best camera is the one you have with you, which makes this little camera great. 

My sense of direction has shifted. I used to know where I was at every second of the day. My sense of direction was killer since I’d have to memorize maps and directions, take a mental note of city layouts and be prepared to improvise if a road was closed or nonexistent. Most times I’m aware of my location because I’ve trained my brain to hover above the scene no matter if I’m walking, driving or riding public trans, but there are times now when I’m down right lazy about. I noticed this most recently when I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I drove a motorbike around the city for almost two weeks and yet I had to completely rely on my passenger to tell me exactly where to go. What’s even worse? The city is a perfect grid, not at all difficult to navigate and I had visited before when I was smartphone-less and got around just fine. Those two weeks presented me with the stark reality that I rely on my smartphone too much at times when I should be exercising my brain as well. 

I have a record of everything
. I take images and notes of just about everything I do, whether it’s pertaining to travel, conversations or random thoughts, it goes in my phone. I think this piggybacks off my last point, I’m relying on this phone instead of storing info in my brain – is this a good or a bad thing? 

All my media is on one device
– this efficiency is welcome. I’m no longer packing a GPS, iPod, camera, flip phone and tablet with me. I haven’t gotten lost in the past year, I’ve taken easily 10,000 images on my phone alone, I haven’t had to be tortured by the radio and I can post to Instagram any damn time of day and we all know that’s the main reason I upgraded to a smart phone. 

Group texting and airdrop save me time and help me deeper my connections.
Wow. Group texting alone is enough of a reason to have a smart phone. I used to spend so much time being absolutely frustrated trying to piece together group texts and half the time the subject matter was so unimportant (sorry boos) that it really wasn’t worth the effort. Now I create group chats and talk my friends’ ears off about nonsense without having to decode the responses. AirDrop is a luxury for a photographer, no longer am I feeling guilty about not sending that random person that picture or wasting hours (seriously) editing, organizing and emailing people candids after parties and nights out. 

There’s an app for that.
Uber, kindle, mobile banking, Etsy, WordPress, Waze, Airbnb, and the eight airline apps allow me to move through the world with ease. I haven’t been to the bank in months, I rarely have to stand in line at an airline counter for a paper boarding pass and I can blog while I fly. Sometimes I can’t fathom how I got anything done with my flip phone. 

Even though my life is markedly more efficient with a smart phone. 

I’m very self conscious whenever I’m using my phone while hanging out with family or friends.
I’m constantly apologizing and feeling quite bad about it, which I think is a symptom of using a phone without internet for nearly a decade longer than everyone else. No one else seems to notice or care when everyone is in the same room yet completely absorbed in their phone, but I sure do. I still think twice or ask permission before using it when I’m out at a restaurant or on the job, something that usually garnishes a strange look from my companions.


I forget how to deal with situations without the ease of internet,
for instance, I’m about to land in Adelaide, Australia and I had this moment of realization at the airport that I couldn’t call an Uber without data. Instead of waiting and using a taxi, I went ahead and enacted my travel plan so that I wouldn’t be without the internet.. is the convenience really worth $10 a day to me? Apparently. 
I’m constantly multitasking and checking in and connecting, for no reason. Yes, get your shit done, but at night when I should be reading or crafting or watching Netflix (which I haven’t done in MONTHS) I’m fucking around on my phone. I have no idea what I’m doing because it’s definitely nothing of substance. I’m probably flipping through my five emails and three instagrams and for what!? 

I need to put my phone physically out of reach or I pick it up.
Why? I’m not sure. It’s an awful habit and I hate myself for it. How did I become so absorbed in a screen after just one year that I managed to avoid my entire adult life? 

I was adamantly against smart phones in the past because I wanted a clear line between work and life. I wanted to have to walk into my home office and log on instead of being inundated with work nonsense at all hours, little did I know it wouldn’t be work that would disrupt and call to me, it’s social media and ‘connection’ and hours of redditing instead. Owning a smartphone is a powerful lesson in self control, which I seem to possess very little of. 
I’ve learned to set boundaries. I don’t answer work calls after hours if I know they’re not urgent. I’ve turned off all those tiny red notification bubbles so they don’t nag me and I’ve tried (and I fail every day) to open apps consciously not out of habit. 

I suppose overall, having a smartphone has made me more mindful of how mindless I have the potential to be. It takes a certain amount of strength and willpower to voluntarily disconnect. I felt superior in the past, as if I didn’t need a smart phone and I didn’t need to be connected and that was absolutely true. I got by perfectly fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that once I became connected, I jumped in headfirst and I’m still trying to come up for air. I’m completely addicted to this tiny internet machine that rewards me with comments, likes and validation even if I detest the whole notion. It’s only when I travel (without access to wifi) that I feel truly connected again. I’m forced to look around, notice, interact and trust myself instead of google. It’s magical and it’s something I’m working on every day wifi or no wifi. I’m curious to see how I’ll transition from a new addict to a seasoned user, I’ll update you in a year, but until then I urge you to become conscious of your use and how it helps or hinders your life and relationships.

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