Why I'll switch off my cellphone momentarily

Sven Krumrey

There I was standing in the flat countryside looking at my cellphone when - dare I write it - the unthinkable happened, I was offline. No business mails, no friends to chat with on Whatsapp and the blog was suddenly far far away. With mixed feelings, I looked around, saw cows, wind turbines, the gray sky and not a soul. No vibrations would announce the arrival of a new message, no delicate *ping* would direct my attention to important company news. Alone, offline with only the wind in my face and some unexpected peace and quiet.

Too much information for a single brain

What some of you may consider normality is a rare exception for today's netizens both at work and home. Whether you simply want to meet up quickly, act fast on business affairs or share the photos from yesterday's birthday party, your cellphone is always on alert. If you don't react, you're frowned upon. And your mother's "You never call" quickly turns into a reproachful "I desperately tried to reach you several times". It's as if you're still connected by an umbilical cord. Change has also swept through most companies. Back in the days you'd simply come home and take a break but now you're given permanent access to mails and company systems along with various obligations. Did the potential customer from Taiwan write back? These are the moments in which globalization bites you in your behind, creating thoughts that will tempt you to quickly breeze through your emails and answer the most urgent ones before you head off to bed.

The nagging continues throughout your spare time. The alarm clock buzzes to remind you of something, you may need to take your medication, somebody may have a birthday, there's just no hope for some peace and quiet. A particularly weird phenomenon is apps that are supposed to do you good, your personal wellness guides so to speak. They will remind you every few minutes or hours to drink some fluids or look at something pretty and relax. I'd be happy to relax if only I could escape the fuzz. Turn on the news, sport and weather notifications and you're in for stimulus overload. A friend of mine who seems to receive every bit of winter sports related news from all over the world is practically oscillating through life. This doesn't seem to be age-related, even elder gentlemen indulge in the madness.

Just a quick look at the emails

The reasons are plenty, it's not just boredom or the urge to appear hip. Some may feel a sense of duty, others may simply wish to stay in touch with friends and family or stay informed in an ever so complicated world. At first, everyone loves your "Wonderful!" comment to your niece's child portrait, the quick response you hammered out to help a colleague and the already finished weekend schedule. IT heavyweights like Apple, Google and Microsoft provide us with digital assistants so that we may never forget a thing or get lost in traffic and safely find our ways to the cheapest gas station. And lying in your bed every night with the knowledge that you took care of everything is a good thing, isn't it?

No, not in the long run. I've worked with colleagues that saw their fair share of stomach ulcers, tinnitus and burnout syndromes. Others barely found time for their hobbies or didn't know the first thing about the cities they lived in. These were not stressed out careerists that were trying to make it big fast but regular, motivated guys. It got me thinking. I had to admit to myself that I was thinking about marketing slogans in the shower each morning or stayed up late until 2 a.m. to approve user comments. Not, because I had to (quite the opposite, it gets frowned upon) but because I have a genuine interest in it. I like reading business mails on my cellphone and I'm always looking forward to reading your comments in this blog. But is this taking things too far?

Open space to clear one’s head

That's why I will switch off my cellphone momentarily and why I won't approve any more comments in the evenings (please bear with me!) but simply live life the way my grandparents did, with a little less rum in my tea, probably. Maybe I'll read a book or go to the seaside and charge my batteries. The PC will sit around unused for a while, I'll even skip news reports but I'm certain the world will keep on spinning. It's worth a try.
My question for you: What are cellphones, computers and other tech gadgets to you? Do you consider modern technology a useful tool, a steady companion or mostly secondary?

Author's note:

I got an email from my boss at 2 a.m. saying that he liked the article. I'll make sure to ask him if he fully understood it. :)

Landscape image: Sandra Roeken / SkeeterPhotoArt
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