05/03/2016 02:17 EDT | Updated 05/04/2017 05:12 EDT

I Didn't Know How Addicted I Was To My Phone Until It Broke


It was Sunday and it was snowing. It was sort of unusual for the weather to be so cold in April but I was leaving two days later on a trip to Europe so I could put up with this nonsense for another 48 hours.

I didn't really want to leave my quaint apartment. I was comfortable sitting in the corner of the couch, legs draped over my wonderfully complaisant husband mindlessly scrolling my Facebook homepage. But our imminent trip made getting the screen fixed on my iPhone all the more urgent.

One month earlier, as I was walking home from work, I pulled my phone out of my jacket pocket to check a message. As I reached for it, the six by six rectangular object slid right out of my cold hands smashing face down on the concrete road in front of me. "Shit" was my initial reaction, but seeing the hundreds of mini cracks that now made up my iPhone screen was disheartening. This is a device I use multiple times a day and now I was going to have to put up with squinting to make out number six or eight depending on the position of the cracks in my screen.

After about a month of looking down at my phone in horror, feeling crushed (literally) and having random strangers on the streetcar gasp, recommending cheap stalls in China Town, I knew it was time to take the plunge.

I had an overwhelmingly strong urge to grab my iPhone and would even go so far as to search for it in my purse. And each time the impulse passed, I felt more restless.

I walked into the one of many iPhone repair shops in downtown Toronto hoping I wouldn't be charged an arm and a leg to "make my iPhone great again."

Handing over my phone felt like I was giving this store clerk a part of me. Like I was handing over a piece of my identity to a young, 20-something year old minimum wage worker who personally, I don't think appreciated the sovereignty he was so quickly granted.

And that's when it hit me. In the 60 minutes I had to wait, I was planning to call my grandmother, check my online banking, send an email to a friend in South Africa and if there was still time remaining, I'd probably post a standard "X amount of days until vacation" status. I'd include an airplane emoji to be cute. But I couldn't do any of these things.

I found a nearby coffee shop to pass the time in while my trust lay in the fingertips of the iPhone repair guy. I ordered a cappuccino which displayed a lovely decorative foam flower floating above the hot liquid and I wanted so badly to take a photo for Instagram.

1. Time stood still

For what felt like at least a half an hour (but I wouldn't know), I sat at a table and people watched just like I imagine they did in the old days. However, every three to five minutes I had an overwhelmingly strong urge to grab my iPhone and would even go so far as to search for it in my purse. And each time the impulse passed, I felt more restless.

2. Started feeling anxious

I'm not an anxious person. But when I began realizing that I was unable to do so many tasks I would easily have been able to do if I had my phone, I began to feel uneasy. What if someone tried to contact me? How will I know when one hour is up? What if my phone feels different when I get it back?

All of these bizarre thoughts started running through my head. As if these were legitimate problems. It had only been (approximately) 35 minutes without my phone and I was slowly but surely losing it.

3. I felt disconnected

I couldn't check the time. I couldn't see what my friends were up to on Facebook. I couldn't make a phone call or even send a text. I felt so disconnected. It felt like I was sitting stark naked in a restaurant and everyone was staring at me. Although everyone inside was actually starring at their own devices, I felt like I didn't fit in. I took a sip of my lovely decorated cappuccino (that I unfortunately couldn't share with my Instagram followers) and a bite of a cookie. I remember chewing slowly. I was in no rush whatsoever and so I made a point to live in the moment and enjoy the flavours. This is something, I sadly admit, I haven't done in a while.

I know I'm dependent on my phone but I didn't know how much it truly impacted my life and my ability to be present in the moment.

4. Began reflecting on my life

If an alien dropped down on to earth and walked into this coffee shop, it would probably think that humans were being controlled by small rectangular objects. That we would be punished if we disobeyed the moving screen and that making eye contact with other humans could be self-destructive. I heard a statistic once that people spend 23 days a year looking down at their phone. How sad.

I decided I should start reading more. I should really have more of a focus in my life. Have I accomplished my New Year's resolution? I've only been to the gym four times this year so I guess not. I wonder where I'll be in five years from now. I wonder if baristas will be replaced with robots. I noticed how elegant the décor of the coffee shop was -- something I probably would never have taken an interest in if I were sat there on my phone.

5. Felt agitated

I felt angry and agitated. I wanted my phone back. I felt like I was wasting valuable time, sitting in a coffee shop, carelessly eavesdropping while munching chocolate chip cookies. I overheard stories about breakups, new business ventures and "sexting." At least I think they said "sexting."

I decided that I was obviously not prepared for situations such as these, and should therefore always have a distraction available (in my purse). I'll know for next time, I thought to myself. (Hopefully there won't be a next time).

6. The realization

But then I started to think about how attached I am to my phone. How attached we all are to our own devices. My phone goes everywhere with me and I go everywhere with it. I even take it with me to the bathroom. I dropped it in the toilet once. That wasn't good but after a dried cup of rice saved the day I've been much more careful. I save recipes and follow them religiously while I cook. I read articles on my phone and interact with friends through my phone. I've paid money for great seats at a basketball game but filtered my view through a camera screen and live updates.

Whether it's pleasure, convenience, acceptance or all three, consumers have been made to feel like they constantly need a distraction in their lives. I know I'm dependent on my phone but I didn't know how much it truly impacted my life and my ability to be present in the moment.

It's time society (myself included) take a step back and really appreciate the one life we are given. To be mindful, conscious and aware. Our brightest and most stable future hinges on our ability to learn, grown and concentrate on the now.

Try to think about the lyrics past musician, Bob Marley so eloquently spoke, "Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you're living?" You can find it on the YouTube app in your phone.

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