Break the Tether
Nowadays, what does one need other than a phone to go out into the world? You’ve got all you need in it: your credit cards, your maps, your music, and even the most asinine videogame you discovered on an Instagram ad. It seems so easy, so practical, it’s just so convenient. Whatever else you need — ID and matriculation card — can just be put in the little pouches you stick on your phone case, undoubtedly bestsellers of the St Andrews gift shop, and off you go. And yes, this practicality is great; you’re never without a way to pay for something, never lost, and never bored. It’s truly crazy to think that in just 10 years we’ve essentially linked all aspects of our daily personal lives to these bricks in our pockets.
But what happens when it runs out of battery? All of a sudden you find yourself penniless, lost, and excessively bored. More than that, very concretely, the information you feed into these devices is sold and used to manipulate you—the search results in Google Maps or the content you consume on Instagram isn’t sold off to better focus targeted ads. Most of us are aware of this today but deem it to be a worthwhile tradeoff. But we should maybe look beyond the craving for convenience which dictates our lives, because such convenience comes at a price, for our privacy, for our independence, and, I would argue, for our happiness.
One should reflect on the effects of being so dependent on our phones. Don’t you think that we would live happier lives without being tethered to our devices? Because what their constant use means is that we are obligated to be always connected and available. Don’t we want to be able to disconnect? To go for a walk, a shop, a class without them, not to be constantly bombarded with notifications and alerts? We’re losing our independence to our phones. Because we have surrendered so many aspects of our lives to them, we feel we can’t live without them. Isn’t it a terrible thing, that the same species which was able to build all we have built, who has been capable of such greatness, are now slaves to technology with regards to tasks as elemental as getting from point A to point B?
I look back on my own experiences, and see with alarm how often I feel the need to have my phone on me wherever I go. But do I need it all the time everywhere? I feel like St Andrews is perhaps the best place to be able to disconnect : you truly need to be plumbing new depths of orientation deficiency to get lost, you see people all the time and therefore don’t need to be available to them 24/7, etc. The ‘bubble’ is such a good place to be able to disconnect for a few minutes or hours, to live independently for a bit. I’ve recently been trying to do something very simple: shut off my phone for a bit, perhaps even still put it in my pocket just in case I need it (something to work on), and just go out and live a normal life without the technology. It’s a very liberating feeling to take off the shanks of my (and I think sadly our generation’s) addiction to convenience.
It just seems like it isn’t worth surrendering all of our freedom constantly. Phones and electronics are useful for so many things, and have led humanity to new degrees of innovation, but we’re sacrificing too much to them, and they’re just making us dumb. We need to learn to be independent from our phones, to be happy without them, by finding once more our ability to live a softer, perhaps messier, but altogether better life without always having them at our sides. So get a standalone wallet, shut off your phone, go for a walk, and be free, disconnected, and unavailable for a bit. It’ll do you more good than you can imagine.