Living in a world with technology has changed the way we think about downtime. You don’t have to agree with me, but you can’t deny that you check your phone more than once a day for social notifications. Be it a text message, Facebook like, phone call, retweet or new Instagram follower, we all check our phones multiple times throughout the day to make sure we’re not missing out on anything.
But when you live in an area with little to no cell phone reception, constantly being on your phone while you’re out and about is no longer an option. Facebook won’t load; Twitter won’t post new tweets; and you can forget about sending a text message.
Getting stationed in North Carolina provided me many new challenges, one of which was the lack of cell phone service in the area where I live. I’ve been here for half a year now and it’s taken me that long to realize that this lack of cell phone service has been a blessing in disguise.
It hit me like a brick wall: There’s no service where I live. I could get texts and calls out from my house, but only if I stood in just the right spot. And of course I had WiFi so working and surfing the Internet from home was a non-issue. Communicating from home wasn’t really the most frustrating part.
It was not being able to check my emails or scroll through Facebook while running errands. It was downright infuriating. What else was I expected to do while I sat shotgun? Just sit there in silence?
Over the past few months I found myself, time and time again, pissed off that I had only one bar which would guarantee me an emergency call out…and that’s it. I was mad because living in the middle of nowhere was already bad enough, but being totally cut off from the social world when I had time to engage with it? That was maddening. I found myself feeling more isolated than ever.
I know, dramatic. But that’s how I felt!
And even though I knew I wasn’t going to get any updates, I looked anyways. I tried to force my phone to reload and I’d hold it up to try to get better service (the good old standby, am I right?) This yielded nothing but more anger and frustration with the situation I was in.
Finally, about five months into living in North Carolina, I just gave up checking my phone in dead zones. I knew my apps weren’t going to update and texts weren’t going to send. I’d be wasting battery life in the pursuit of a social post that wouldn’t arrive until I got home. Why get myself worked up over something I had no control over?
That’s when it hit me: I could use these moments to simply be present.
Instead of yearning for voyeuristic communication with the rest of the my friends and family, I decided to take the time to be present and to appreciate my surroundings. I was going to squash my nasty case of FOMO…one car ride at a time.
What did I do?
I can’t claim the urge to check my phone completely disappeared. I’d find myself absentmindedly reaching for my phone and clicking to unlock it. But I’d stop myself there, re-lock the screen and then put it back down.
Okay, so I stopped ogling over my phone constantly when I was out and about. But what do I actually do now that I’ve given up feeding my phone addiction?
I just sit there in silence…like a psychopath.
When my husband gets out to fuel the car or run into the grocery store, I just sit there. I observe the world around me and savor those few moments of peace that only the inside of a car can offer. I think about my day, I take measure of how I’m feeling, I observe people walking around me and I listen to what’s going on in the world.
I know, it sounds super weird. And I’m sure I look like a total freak by today’s standards since I’m not hunched over my Samsung Galaxy with the blue glow of the screen illuminating my glazed over eyes. Instead I just look out the window, or even close my eyes and take some deep breaths.
It’s surprisingly relaxing.
And I have to say, it’s already made a considerable difference in my life. I’m worrying less and feeling less stress. I’m engaging in more meaningful conversations with my husband rather than talking about what I saw on Facebook that day. I’m noticing more of my surroundings and catching glimpses of the gorgeous lake we pass on the way home. I’m crushing my nasty case of FOMO, one car ride at a time.
And I’m simply being present.