For the last week, I haven't had a mobile phone. I've been in the UK for just under a week now and just haven't had time (or a bank account, until today) to actually get one. For someone who had an iPhone and a BlackBerry for the past two years, it's a dramatic and strange change.
I know, I know - 1 week? What's the big deal? In reality, when you're addicted to a variety of digital outlets (social networks, texting, gaming, photo's, etc), you'd think that you could just get your fix on your computer. But in reality, when you're busy running from meeting to meeting and project to campaign, you don't have time to spend checking Twitter, writing blog posts or commenting on the go. And this has had a huge impact on me.
To be honest, I didn't notice it until yesterday after work. Getting home around 9PM and being obsessed with getting online and doing 'personal stuff' (read: messing around online). Fast forward to midnight and it felt like I hadn't acheived anything. Why is this?
Because having a mobile allows you to compartmentalize your personal bits throughout the day. Like leaving your inbox for two hours and coming back to a hundred emails, I find my personal digital endeavours are the same. If you don't manage them in your daily downtime, they build up and you spend your online moments trying to catch up.
But that's the strange thing - the phases of the withdrawl from a mobile life. For me, they are the following:
1. Relief: Nobody can get a hold of me (sometimes quite nice) and I can find anyone - when I want to - online. I can focus on the tasks and just unplug and shut down.
2. Missing out: The DM's and messages start to pile up. The blog posts stop getting posted and the Reader has 1000+ unread posts. I start to get worried that I'm deeply behind.
3. Panic: Seeing a title wave and wondering what to prioritize in the limited amount of downtime that I might have. Do I chat with people on Facebook or read my favorite blogs from the day? Do I watch a TED talk or update my LinkedIn profile? With a mobile, you never have to choose, you just prioritze.
4. Evaluation of digital essentials vs. time wasters: Right now, I'm questioning some of my digital 'priorities'. Do I need to update Twitter on a daily basis to maintain my follower base? Do I need to check my 60+ subscriptions ever morning to find new news? What, in my digital life, can I give up?
When you have a mobile, you have another way to connect. You can squeeze more, short, experiences into a day and feel as if your multi-tasking. But if some of those tasks don't really matter, what - exactly - are they worth?
Apps, geotracking, AR, location search, Sixth Sense...all mobile technologies that are going to give us more capabilities and connections. But at the end of the day, if you don't have them right now, do these technical add-ons become things you can't live without? Or just things that you wish you might have never found in the first place?