The day I left my auxiliary brain at home

I got to the office this morning and couldn’t find my phone. I phoned home (on the landline), and Mrs M confirmed my suspicion that it was still plugged in to the charger in the kitchen. Aarrgh! I felt naked and adrift.

Now, I am not a great mobile user. I’m not forever checking stuff. I keep notifications for apps permanently off. I use a paper diary. I don’t do emails on the phone. Some of this dates back to my early days with a smart phone, when I did use some of these features and caught myself referring to it as my auxiliary brain. At that point, I thought, “No.”

However, today I was in a mild panic. I had a couple of appointments lined up – people coming to see me – and I didn’t know how they’d get in touch to say they were running late, or whatever. What if one of my children sent me a text and they wouldn’t know I hadn’t received it?

In the staff kitchen, I told two colleagues about it and we agreed that, somehow, in the olden days, we managed fine without mobiles. One said that she had been to see Chrissie Hynde in concert the previous night, and Chrissie had stopped in the middle of a song to tell someone to stop filming and switch their phone off. We agreed that it’s rude, the way some people film concerts, and that the results are rarely worth seeing. We agreed that you get more out of a show by keeping your phone in your pocket and being fully present. One of my colleagues said that she’d read some research showing that people who don’t take photos remember more of their experiences than those who do. It’s as if you delegate some of your thinking to your phone, and lose a little bit of your ability to use that little bit of your brain. Also, you stop being fully present. Instead, you’re partly in the future, thinking about how you’ll share those photos on Facebook and how your friends will react.

I recognise that I am old, well – 52. But I do feel resistant to the idea of delegating thinking to machines. I know it is the future, but I don’t like it. What shocked me today is, even with the limits I place around my dependence on the phone, I realised how dependent on it I am.

In the end, both of my visitors turned up on time. When I got home, there were no texts waiting for me (apart from one from one of my visitors saying he was on time). I got through the day fine, with just the brain that’s in my head, just like we used to.

4 thoughts on “The day I left my auxiliary brain at home”

  1. Yes! It is fascinating to see how ours norms of behavior and communication and trust have been altered by mobile phones. Which are really mobile computers —one of which’s function is to be a phone. Hurrah that your appointments arrived on time and your life unfolded satisfactorily even without your phone. And hurrah that you still had a land line to fall back on…

  2. I have made a conscious decision not to have a smart phone and to keep my computer stuff in my office (although I work from home, so my office is at home). I went away the other weekend to a big gathering and the friend I was sharing a room with was surprised that I was completely off-line for the time I was away. ‘Don’t you want to check-in to the event of Facebook?’ she asked, ‘You can borrow my phone.’ I politely declined, pointing out that everyone would know I was there when I walked into the bar. Even so, she insisted on checking in on my behalf… in case she lost me between our room and the bar, maybe?
    So far I have manage to lead my life ok without constant access to the internet, I suspect I will continue to do so. I do have a camera though… couldn’t blog without it!

    1. I think I’m wasting a lot of money with a smartphone I don’t really use much beyond phoning and texting – although the little extras that I do use are useful, especially the camera. Could I manage without them? Probably – but I’d have to get a camera and a basic mobile – so in the interests of not consuming & disposing unnecessarily, I’ll probably continue as I am for now. But it is amazing how normal it is for so many people to be perpetually plugged in to the matrix

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