Kate's Comment

Thoughts on British ICT, energy & environment, cloud computing and security from Memset's MD

Phoneless

Islay

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from comms lately, in more ways than one. It started with a holiday to Islay (a wee Scottish island) where my partner, Izzy, and I had a great time. She is a freshwater conservationist specialising in rare aquatic plants so we split our time between poking around looking for it in lochs, hiking and wild-camping on the island (the hiking bit was surprisingly hard due to it being one big peat bog!) and curled up in front of the peat-burning stove playing board games like Talisman.

The thing we didn’t have at all there was internet access. Nor did our phones work. This enforced break from communications was, to my surprise, rather wonderful! I have always held a sort-of paranoia about being disconnected, feeling that I need to be in touch “just in case”. But this time I was forced to give in and accept just being two people. It was one of the best holidays of my life.

Taking a break from social media

On my return I decided to take a little break from Twitter and Google+ too, as something of an experiment. Again, in the past, I’ve felt that I have to keep posting stuff or people will go off me and stop following me. Similarly with this blog, this is the first post I’ve made in a couple of months. Has it caused my search engine rankings to fall? Barely, certainly not significantly. Have I lost zillions of followers on my social channels? Nope.

It has been good to have some time for quiet self-reflection and quality time with loved ones also. I had not realised how truly invasive some of the technology had become, but having these little breaks has helped me to gain a more balanced view on the drive to stay in touch constantly.

I have it, but I have it lost

It is perhaps ironic that shortly after I decided to go back online I knocked my phone (a Samsung Galaxy SII) off my bedside table, from which it fell about two feet onto its own plug socket and promptly stopped working. No crack on the screen, but a single brilliant white line across it.

Unphased, I set my book keeper on the task of sorting out the insurance, and borrowed an older Samsung phone from a friend. Unfortunately, about three days later, I lost that phone. I am sure it is at home somewhere, but I don’t know where, and that was about 10 days ago.

Now you might think that as a high-powered executive daily riding the cut and thrust of deals and business strategy I’d desperately need a phone, but as it turns out, I don’t. In fact, I’ve realised I don’t especially like talking to people over the phone. It is quite impersonal and if I am going to bother spending the time talking to someone I’d much rather do it in person. Also, I guess I’m not actually that sort of executive – I much prefer emailing people when doing business.

Now, admittedly, I’ve not had to go anywhere I don’t know lately; that’s one of the functions my phone is important for (sat nav) though I do have a TomTom, and yes I have had to make the odd call, but I have my VoIP phone at work and can pinch Izzy’s phone at home.

So what’s a phone for again?

But really thinking about it, the only thing I actually, genuinely miss from my all-singing, all-dancing super-computing (I grew up with a BBC Micro, remember) smart-phone is the ability to send people text messages. My laptop does everything else perfectly well and in truth I’ve enjoyed being able to pick and choose when I wish to be available to people, whereas with a mobile you sort-of feel obliged to be always connected.

Given that we don’t have a land line phone at home and I do occasionally want to phone or text friends and family, Izzy is now getting a bit bored of me borrowing her phone a couple of times a day so I’m certainly not suggesting that in modern life we can do without a mobile. I think I’m just suggesting that we sometimes think we need the tech more than we actually do.

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