I have recently been vacationing on the beautiful island of Oahu, a place in which I have rediscovered what it means to be disconnected. I have to say, I did not enter that state lightly, or without trepidation. So much so that I specifically went out and purchased new swim wear and iPhone protective gear before the trip such that I would not have to be disconnected.
Over the past few months, I've come to realize that I suffer from a phobia. It's not overpowering, it's not all-consuming, but it's real and I deal with it almost constantly. That phobia is being disconnected.
It exhibits itself in various ways. Whenever I stand up to walk somewhere I immediately pat my right pocket to make sure my phone is there. If I forget to do this and get half-way through the house, I will turn around if I've forgotten my phone.
If I find that somehow my Pebble has become disconnected from my phone, I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. "What if I missed something!?!?"
There is a feeling that I can compare it to. When I was in college I used to strap a bunch of pads on along with a pair of roller blades and go jump off things while doing tricks. I fell as much as I landed the tricks.
On a few very rare occasions, I left the pads behind. Every time I did this, I suffered some horrific skin disfigurement as I rubbed some joint along the asphalt at high speeds. It was a feeling akin to nakedness whenever I ventured out this way.
So the same when I don't have my phone. People depend on me, people laud me, people connect with me, all through my phone. If I don't have my phone, I may miss any or all of this. It is a horrible thing to think that I might go five minutes without this connection!
And yet... Those times "critical" work emails come in during dinner and the joy I get from asking my children what the best part of their day was is washed away in a momentary fire-storm of frustration as I ponder the nature of self-sufficiency. Or when I'm having a deep conversation with my wife and best friend and I'm torn away, ever so briefly, by the buzzing on my wrist and the moment of intimacy dissipates with my inattention.
All of this connection is in a very real way an exceptionally self-absorbed thing. It is the ultimate way in which I can make the whole world revolve around me.
As I've vacationed and left my phone yards or even miles from my person, I've realized that I should spend more time without a "connection". There is so much to see and do that doesn't revolve around this artificial, digital world in which so many of us choose to make our homes. It's not that the digital world can't travel into these places, it's more that it should be a passive observer and not a participant.
It's incredible to capture that moment on my phone as my son conquers his fear and leaps off of a waterfall into a pool below, thus creating a moment in which I can point back to and call him courageous, a moment that is a memory he will likely have for the rest of his life, well after I (and my phone) are gone. But I don't really need to know whether or not we've been upgraded to first class as he does that.
This connection, this device, is not a diviner of the sacredness of moments, it can only tell everything at full volume. Until these devices become such diviners it will become necessary for me, at least, to disconnect. Much more often.