Tales from the Wood: playing spot the mobile phone on the holiest day of the year

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Tales from the Wood: playing spot the mobile phone on the holiest day of the year

Fiona Green is a features writer


fiona leckerman
Fiona Leckerman

My name is Fiona and I have a confession. I am addicted to my phone. I am a compulsive phone checker, thumb swiping, button clicker. I make this admission publically because it has to stop. I am outing myself as an over avid phone watcher because I fear it is consuming my life.

My pulse races as I rush to answer a call; it blinks dad at me. I restlessly refresh my email, a click and a whoosh and in they fly through my virtual letterbox and land at my feet with a bleep.

John Lewis is having a sale, Clarks has 20 percent off, my dad has sent me an eCard or forwarded me a cartoon rabbi singing a Yiddish song. My heart quickens at the beep-beep of an incoming text (also my dad) and my agile fingers type a reply in seconds. Refresh and refresh – I want more.

I scroll on Facebook; whose birthday is it today? Where have they checked in? Twitter, Daily Mail Online?

It’s not enough to look out of the window; I touch The Met Office App, to confirm the temperature. Recheck – I must have more.

I carry my phone with me, cradling it in my palm. It slides into my back pocket ready to whip out like a pistol loaded for continual checking. It accompanies me to the bathroom and lies next to my bed.

I wait for it to light up and if it doesn’t, I bite my needy knuckles and tap tap until something appears. I am never without it, I cannot be without it. This has to stop.

This is an exaggeration. I am not running an empire from my phone and I’m not addicted. But I also know that I am certainly not alone. We all do this to a degree. We are all always logged on. Some would argue this is a positive: that we are more communicative thanks to the portable technology that keeps us in the loop, even on the loo.

Do we always need to have our fingers on the perpetual pulse of each other’s lives?

Have we let our phones swallow up our capacity to communicate normally, even verbally? I can’t remember the last time I had a chat on the phone with a friend (and not just to my dad).

We exchange texts back and forth like tennis balls in the grand slam of how are yous and let’s get togethers. And what is worse, when we do meet up, children playing and us tea drinking, we still steal a glance at our devices, only a little peak, a quick check, just in case there is that catastrophic nightmare scenario, whereby we miss something essential. I know you do it too.

I have seen you. I have proof.

I sat in the children’s service at shul on Yom Kippur and the father next to me asked if I wanted to play a game. I raised my eyebrow conspiratorially and bid him to go on. His game was to spot the hidden mobile phone. So, there we were singing about the Ten Commandments and playing at being spies. I searched the circle of parents for the offender, the sinner in our midst. My unsuccessful spy skills were not as honed as this seasoned spot-the-phone-at-shul-pro. I threw in the towel and asked him to point out the culprit and, as he did, I saw the criminal take a shifty sideways glimpse at his phone.

My mouth opened aghast, for even I had managed to leave my phone at home. Maybe he was tweeting: In shul #hungry. It’s not just at shul, it’s in the cinema, at the park, at birthday parties, on the school run. Thank you for kindly updating us mid-journey of impending blocked roads and temporary traffic lights.

Do we really want to hide behind an electronic device as a means of chronicling our lives and communicating to the people within it? Do we really need to update the world about our children’s every achievement and runny nose? Or be in constant contact with everyone we have ever known day (or night)? Actually, we do not.

Let’s unsubscribe, sign out, shut down and reconnect – with each other.

I set myself the ultimate experiment. I relinquish my phone, imprisoning it in a drawer. Set it to silent and pretend it doesn’t exist. How long can I cope with not being connected?

Freedom fills me, lightness becomes me and then I hear a gentle hum, enticing me. I resist. It hums again.

I cannot stop myself. The drawer opens, just one final infinitesimal look – (it’s my dad).

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