A new perspective on your smart phone: lose it.


When I bought my last phone, I did very little research. I had heard that Apple had just launched a new model called the iPhone SE, and I knew it was for me. See, the iPhone 5 had been my first real smart phone, and I loved it. So when it finally began to slow down, I knew that I didn’t want a different experience — I just really wanted to have a new version of my old phone. And since the SE was the same shape and size as my old 5, I knew that’s what I wanted.

Tragedy on the tram

For the past year and a half, that phone has been perfect for me. I have used it constantly, for blog posts, Instagram, Facebook… until this past week. That’s because as I got on the tram in Sarajevo last Monday, someone reached in my pocket, pulled my phone out, and ran.

That’s right, pickpocketed on a tram.

In 14 years of using the trams and buses in Sarajevo, it had never happened to me, until now. By the time I realized what had happened, we were already a few minutes down the tram line. It was too late. Bye bye, phone.

A bad experience

The past week has been quiet. Getting a new cell phone was no problem; a colleague almost immediately gave me a sleek new LG candy bar phone. It has all the latest features — from about 15 years ago. You can listen to FM radio on it (if you have the special headphones that work with this phone…) and play “Snake” all day long.

So instead of being a constant magnet for attention, the phone has mostly stayed in my pocket.

When you have a bad experience, sometimes you have to force yourself to look at it from a different perspective.

I was upset initially, but I have tried not to be in the days following the incident. And my experience hasn’t actually been that bad. There are a few things I haven’t been able to do, which are annoying:

  • I haven’t been able to answer random trivial questions with a quick Google search. 
  • I haven’t been able to use Google Translate on the go.
  • I don’t get emails or messages until I am able to open my laptop. 

But what have I gained out of this new arrangement? Let’s see…

  • Because I don’t have a smart phone, I have to look at people. I have to make eye contact. I can’t just sit and look down at my phone when I want to disengage.
  • Because I don’t have a smart phone, I have to spend more time playing with my children. This isn’t a fairy tale: we aren’t suddenly spending days at Disney Land or taking father-son fishing trips. But when the kids say, “I want to wrestle!” I can’t look down at my phone and just say, “I’m busy.”
  • Because I don’t have a smart phone, I have gained “message-free” time. Before, I was pretty well-connected. My wife would constantly send me messages, I had a pretty involved group message that I would spend time on regularly, and I had friends from back home who wanted to chat. Now, that all must wait for the times when I am sitting at my laptop.
  • Because I don’t have a smart phone, I gained some peace of mind. I no longer carry anything of value, now that I don’t have a smart phone. So, on a tram or bus, when a pickpocketer is looking for his next take, I’m not a target.

Has my quality of life suffered? Not really.

My life may have slowed down a little because I no longer have my phone, but I don’t think I’ve really suffered as a result. I have to look people in the eyes, I have to get down on the ground and wrestle with my kids, and I have fewer distractions. Sometimes, you need a shock to your routine — it might just be for the best.

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