The Day I Broke My Brain (Er, Smartphone)

Posted by Brad McMillan, CFA, CAIA, MAI

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This entry was posted on Aug 3, 2016 3:54:36 PM

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smartphoneI dropped my phone the other day, severely cracking its face. It still worked, but I felt like I was getting slivers of glass in my finger every time I used it, so I took it in for repair. The fix worked fine in the short term, but last night, the phone just died. Nothing.

I was okay at first. I set it down and went off to do something else. Then I needed to look something up. No phone. Then I wondered about the weather. No phone. Then I wanted to read a book. No phone.

This morning, going out for my run, I wanted my timers and tracking software. Nope. Coming into work, I wanted Waze to tell me the best way to avoid traffic. No dice.

I’m picking up my parents from the train station this afternoon. Hope they’re on time, because I won’t be able to track them. I’m having my car serviced, too, so the garage will have to reach me at my office.

I literally can’t remember when I’ve felt so out of touch.

The trouble with phone addiction

Bear in mind, throughout much of this time, I've been in arm's reach of an Internet-connected computer. There are clocks and TVs all around. It’s not like I don’t have access to information, but the immediacy and omnipresence is gone. I really feel like half of my brain has been switched off.

I’ve never been addicted to anything other than Diet Coke (thank goodness), but I have to imagine this is kind of what it feels like. I repeatedly grab for my phone without thinking, only to set it down again. Every time, the disappointment is fresh.

Yes, I know I have a problem. What’s interesting, though, is just how unaware of it I’ve been. I have watched my son spend more time on screens and addressed it, but I’ve been blind to my own problems.

Time to disconnect (at least some of the time)

There are actually two problems here. First, much of my life apparently depends on a gadget that can easily die. I saw an article this morning praising smartphones as payment mechanisms, saying it’s now much easier than using a credit card. Two days ago, I probably would have agreed, but today all I can think about is losing my ability to pay along with everything else. I need to rethink my life to revolve less around my phone.

The second problem is more personal. This Dilbert cartoon pretty much says it all: looking at our phones too often displaces human interaction. My recent enforced abstinence has underscored that point, and I’m not very happy with what it says about me.

So tonight, my son and I will be playing with his wooden train tracks for the first time in quite a while. This weekend, we’ll be going in the pool. I will certainly repair or replace my phone—I really do need it—but it will be set aside and turned off when I don’t. As frustrating as this phoneless experience has been, I suspect it will turn out to be a good thing.

Time to start relying on the brain in my head again.

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