Saturday night, we went to the LA County Fair. I've never been, but my idea of a county fair is the local on back east - dirt field, carnival rides, fried dough, and weather that necessitates a sweater and a knit hat. Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the LACF ("the largest county fair in the world," C reminded me,) to a Disneyland-esque parking situation, complete with a tram to the entrance, and tons and tons of people. (And 80 degree weather.)
I decided that before we went, I would take one or two pictures with my phone, but that was it. No checking it to see if I got a random text message, no scrolling through my news feed, nothing. In the past few months I've really been feeling like my phone is such a cop out, and Louie C.K.'s recent discussion on Conan that's gone viral has really, really gotten me thinking about it. (Here's a great yoga-centric post about it from YogaDork.) I originally planned on having phone detox Sundays, but that became a problem when football season started and I needed to keep an eye on my Fantasy score. I then decided that I'd just ixnay the phone usage after 6 pm on Sundays, substantially easier now that Breaking Bad is almost over and most of my news feed are east coast watchers. (Yet, that said, Breaking Bad IS ALMOST OVER and that means after next Sunday I'll need to find a new excuse.)
While we were at the fair, I did only take a few pictures, including cute bunnies who were snuggling together in their pen, and a photo and video of C bungee jumping (BUNGEE JUMPING!). I managed to avoid Facebook altogether, and unsuccessfully tried to post a photo to Instagram. I noticed I was much more aware of what was going on, how I was feeling, and what we were doing, so much so that now, three days later, I'm still remembering details that I would have definitely forgotten by now had I been engrossed in my phone.
The irony is not lost on me that last night I got to a chapter in Yeah Dave's "Living in the Moment" about the exact same thing. The idea that time you enjoy wasting isn't actually wasting time. (Or something like that.) In a society where we equate productivity with success, its easy to fall into the 'I have to check my email, I have to call this person, I have to do this thing,' to feel like we've accomplished something. Take it from me - my office phone is an iPhone and it pretty much follows me wherever I go, so no wonder I've been contemplating running away to a cabin in the woods with a bunch of books and no internet in sight. But some of the best moments in life are truly the ones where we stop to take in what's around us, what's happening, and how we're feeling. And that can be scary.
My summers spent in Maine used to be like this. When we first started camping there, I'm pretty sure they didn't have wifi yet, and I certainly didn't have a cell phone or a laptop. Days meant going for long bike rides, reading by the lake (one weekend I read 4 books, and I still remember doing it!) and playing cards on the picnic table. Even in the more recent years, when I did have a smartphone, it was far easier for me to ignore it in that environment. It meant I was out making memories and spending time with people I cared about, rather than taking photos of said memories to then post to the world.
The more this lesson keeps popping up in my 'sphere, the more I become aware that I miss the days where smartphones didn't exist. Sure, its a great tool in many ways, and by no means am I regretting having one. (The paranoid 'what if there's an emergency?' part of me outwins that battle every time.) But I am going to be much more cognizant about how much of those calm, quiet moments I waste scrolling my news feed or playing Tetris. One of my favorite things to do on Saturday mornings post-yoga is to open our balcony door, listen to the birds, and drink a cup of coffee in silence. I just need to remember that feeling whenever I feel the 'grab the phone' itch.