On the night of July 21st, Belgium’s national holiday, fiancé and I were looking up at the sky and the beautiful fireworks. Twenty minutes of just watching the pretty lights. So simple, in theory.
I was so irritated by the mom and her son next to us, smartphone in their hands for twenty minutes long, filming the fireworks, not looking up from their screen at all. The boy couldn’t have been older than eight.
A few meters in front of us, a man in shorts held up his phone above his head for the full twenty minutes also. And me, instead of enjoying the fireworks, I was distracted by the behaviour of other people and stood there trying to savour l’instant présent. It seems impossible for a lot of people to disconnect these days.
"Simply checking the time and getting lured in by the notifications on the screen… it’s all too easy nowadays."
Me too am guilty for scrolling through my instagram feed whilst watching an episode of How I met Your Mother, taking my phone with me to the loo or checking my facebook throughout the day for no reason at all.
I try to be as independent from my phone as possible, but checking my bank credit, seeing when the next tram will arrive at the station or simply checking the time and getting lured in by the notifications on the screen… it’s all too easy nowadays.
"We never got distracted by buzzing smartphones or online games. We could let our creativity run free."
That’s why I am going off the grid for a week. I will be spending a minium of one week with my family in the Netherlands, and leave my phone at home with my fiancé.
My parents live in the Dutch countryside in the province of Groningen, where my sister and I used to play for hours on the farmland, until the streetlights flared up. That was our sign to head home. We never got distracted by buzzing smartphones or online games. We could let our creativity run free.
The whole summer we would play “the A-team”. I was Murdoch, my sister Hannibal. Rob, a boy from my class who lived in our street played B.A. Baracus, the muscles. Or we pretended to be at war with the other kids in the village, built cabins, zip-lines or bunkers…
Even later in my teenage years, when we barely used mobile phones; except for texting -which would take forever because I had to press “6” three times for “O” and “5” twice for “K”-
it served us to ring home and then hang up. Mom or dad would call back so we didn’t use up our credit to tell them we wouldn’t be home for dinner.
In these years I would spend a lot of time on my bicycle to go to friends who lived in neighbouring villages. There we lied for hours in the grass talking about boys, danced in the living room with the cliché hairbrushes in our hands or we secretly shared a joint behind the church.
A part from going back in time to my parents house, I will also spend a few nights at my sisters home in Drenthe, where she lives with her husband and my adorable nephew.
He is fortunately too young to have a smartphone and spends a lot of his time playing around the house with the two girls that live next door, jumping through the sprinklers or throwing a ball.
"Does a life without a smartphone bring only peace and tranquility, or also problems?"
So I am challenging myself this summer, to go back to basics for a week, traveling back in time, to my childhood years.
I will keep a diary to write down the things I experience and how this change will affect me.
I expect a lot of positive change in this week of my life, but I am sure to run into some difficulties. I won’t be able to call or text my fiancé, check upon social media when I find myself alone for a while, and how will I be able to contact or meet my friends on a crowded terrace without WhatsApp? Will they wait for me if I miss my train and I’ll be half an hour late?
Does life without a smartphone bring only peace and tranquility, or also problems?
Most of us take several photo’s a day, because we always have our handy, light-weight camera on us. Me, not this week.
I will document my week with two of my analog camera’s.
A 1986 “Russian Tank” Zenit Xp12 film camera from Soviet Russia.
And a much more recent (less serious) instax mini8 instant film camera.
Real moments, without filter.
And when I get back I will share my experience with you.