Slightly Less Tethered

February 11th, 2011
[ Geek ]

It doesn’t seem that long ago when I didn’t own a cell phone at all. When I moved to being an independent contractor, almost a decade ago, I “needed” a blackberry. The logic was sound as I was the person emailed or phoned when certain client servers stopped breathing.

I haven’t looked back since diving head first into digital tether land. Sure I’ve dabbled with cutting the cord on occasion but beyond the odd sabbatical I’ve been fully connected to web, email, phone, twitter, etc all my waking hours. While I’d love to report on my unwavering self control with respect to this connectivity, the reality is quite the opposite. When there’s the slightest pause in the real world I inevitably reach for the digital tether and dive into a virtual world. Almost immediately my mind is back in the office instead of watching my son play hockey. Or I’m reading something useless on twitter instead of saying hi to someone who walks by, right in front of me.

I’m not going to pretend for a second that mobile devices and the associated connectivity are going to do anything except continue to proliferate. We do, however, have a choice that is often hidden and that’s to be in control of how available and connected we are. This isn’t about keeping us from a promised land, this is about protecting what we already have, that being the space to think, grow, learn.

I love Windows Mobile’s new ad campaign in which they save us from our smart phones, however, I’m not sure the solution to being disconnected from the real world is a better smart phone.

What I loved, and miss, about not owning a cell phone was the ability to be unavailable. More importantly, to be more available to the real humans, and world, around me. I enjoyed being difficult to interrupt. I enjoyed being highly available to the people sitting in front of me. So I’m experimenting with a new setup and have no idea how long it will last. I withhold the right to come screaming back tomorrow with every iThing I can buy.

The experiment? I’ve ditched my smart phone entirely and moved to a voice only cell contract. I intend to combine that with a 3G enabled tablet soon, to allow me access to email, web etc. I am, however, waiting for the next round of android tablets before committing to a device. That will allow me to leave the tablet at home and venture into the world with nothing but a cell. I know it sounds scary but I’ve heard some people have lived through this.

To get me through my tablet-less days, I’m using a 3G Kindle and it’s free global 3G access. No it isn’t a tablet but yes you can browse, use email and web based calendars in a reasonable fashion. I have to admit, the kindle has impressed the hell out of me and the end result is I’m reading a lot more than pre-kindle but it’s early days still.

I’m a week into this and I’m really enjoying it so far. What’s painfully obvious is how much of my life was filled with reaching for a “smart” phone for no reason other than idle time. It’s surprising what you can do when you have that idle time back. I stare at walls, I see people, I think about stuff. It’s also surprising how I still reach for my ‘dumb’ phone only to realize there’s nothing to check on it. It demands little of me. What the hell will I do with myself?? Call me, we’ll talk.