My name is Liz and I’m an iPhone addict. It started innocently enough. My parents bought me my first flip phone in college to use in emergency situations. I rarely turned it on because I was afraid of going over my minutes. But then came “Family Plans” and the “Fave Five” and suddenly I could talk to anyone in “my network” for free. A few years and a few phone upgrades later and I wasn’t just talking, I was texting, watching videos, Facebooking, Instagramming, and downloading every app imaginable.
Nowadays, my phone is the first thing I look at when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I see before going to bed at night. In my defense, my phone doubles as my alarm clock, but I admit to checking my email, Facebook, and Instagram methodically before setting my alarm. I know. #IHaveAProblem
In June, I had the privilege of attending MindBodyGreen’s inaugural Revitalize Summit – a four-day event featuring some of the world’s leading experts in nutrition, health, fitness, personal growth and more. Graham Hill, founder of TreeHugger.com gave a talk titled “Signs You Have an Unhealthy Relationship With Technology.” As I settled into my seat, I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. There were 100 people in the room and thousands more watching online, but I knew he was speaking directly to me and I felt so ashamed.
After the talk, I was walking back to my room swearing off all social media, when a fluffy little desert rabbit hopped directly across my path. I mean, come on! It was a moment made for instagram! Would one quick photo really harm anyone? I discreetly snapped the shot, locked myself in my room and X-Pro’d the s*&% out of that little bunny. #WascallyWabbit. I felt so dirty.
I vowed to go on a digital detox then and there. It lasted about 45 minutes. But hey, it’s a start, right? While I couldn’t quit my phone cold turkey, I did become more aware of the mindless obsession with constantly checking it every 5 minutes. When I felt the urge to pull out my phone, I asked myself if it was really necessary. The answer was always no.
With my phone out of sight, I began really seeing. The mountains. The clouds. The cacti. The people. I had insightful and inspiring conversations with new friends (and not the FB kind). I realized I didn’t need Wi-Fi to connect. The best connections are made face-to-face.
The summit culminated in a special outdoor concert with Feist. We gathered in an intimate circle under a canopy of stars and Feist softly serenaded us as a full moon rose over the mountains. The setting was nothing short of magic. I instantly wanted to make an IG video. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. iPhone flashes started going off and Feist stopped singing.
She asked us what it would be like if we really shared space. What if we watched the concert with our eyes, rather than through the screen of our phones? What if we listened with our ears, rather than recording it to playback later? I put my phone down and started experiencing with all of my senses. I felt the warm desert air kiss my skin. I felt the music sway in my body. I looked up at the stars and knew my mom was among them shining her light down on me. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes and I breathed in gratitude for beauty of the moment. No video could have captured that feeling.
The magic of the desert is now just a memory, but the lessons remain. Put down your phone. Be present to the places and people around you. Yes, I’ll pick up my phone again tomorrow, but today I’m in a no-phone zone and it feels damn good.