The unintended (happy) consequences of running out of data


At some point on the 25th of December, just before four friends from the USA arrived for two weeks of fun and adventures, my mobile photo data for the month came to an end. Yep, somehow I’d used up every last mega-giga-micro bite thingy that I’m allotted each month.

I’ve never in my adult life EVER used up all of the data on my phone. Ever. There’s always a buffer for those ‘just in case moments’ in life. And by ‘just in case’ I don’t mean having to call for assistance or to get something urgent or even slightly important done – but rather those “OMG! I must Instagram/Facebook/Vine/Snapchat this!” moments.

Having no data felt so foreign. So crazy. So…so weird. Truth be told I felt slightly helpless and a little bit lost. I also felt disconnected. All in the space of 15 seconds or so.

After a moment of deep breathing, I looked up from my phone and made a split-second decision. For the next 10 days (until my data would be renewed again from the font of monthly mobile plans) I’d just turn off as often as humanly possible. I know, I know…shock, horror. Right?

Wrong. After my initial panic from knowing that I’d have to effectively “turn off” for ten days (I’d have to check in for work a few times a day), I embraced the awesomeness that is the silence of being unconnected to a device. No beeping. No little red flags calling my attention away from more immediate conversations and instants. Nope, I lived life in the here-and-now for the first time in a long time. And, wowzah, did it resonate with me!

Do you remember those times as a kid when you’d spend all day with a group of friends? You’d get up in the morning, go to someone’s house, wait for the whole crew to show up and then start adventuring. My best friends and I would hike in the local hills, ride bikes, go to the movies, play games, swim, run around, and so much more. All in a day! We connected on long summer days, before and after school, and on the weekends in ways that I’ve never connected with other people since. We formed bonds that are, to this day, unbreakable. All because we got to know each other down to the deepest parts of our beings. We learned to trust each other. To love each other – warts and all.

In today’s hyper-connected world we’re so pitifully unconnected. Having a cup of coffee with a friend usually involves 14 other conversations on other devices and leaves any of us little bandwidth to concentrate on the people right there in front of us (refer to the photo of my friends in a cafe on a recent road trip we took across New Zealand’s North Island). There are always photos to be uploaded, bragging rights to be posted, blogs to be written. All with someone sitting right in front of us.

It’s a sad state of affairs. Really, it is. Where have our attention spans gone? The worst part is that most people, myself included, don’t know they’ve been sucked into the vortex until someone who’s come out the other side (or avoided it all together) makes a point to call you out on your behavior. Or when your data runs out and you realize how silly feeling anxious about that is.

I, for one, will put my hand up and admit extreme guilt in being over connected. In not spending enough time just enjoying cracking jokes out on the lawn with my kid, in not savoring every sip of wine with my husband sitting next to me. For a long time I was confused, always looking for the next big thing to spark my interest or passion. The truth is, I was never focused enough on living in the moment to actually realize that everything I needed was already right in front of my face – it was just that my face was obscured by technology more often than not!

From here on out though, I’m changing. I will be making one helluva concerted effort to put my phone on silent. Leave it behind more often. Not allow it to record every waking moment of my life and of the lives of people I love. Sorry iPhone, it’s not you – it’s me. And, right here, right now I am changing gears.

Life’s for living. 100% focus on who I’m with. 100% focus on being in the moment and creating great memories…not great selfies. Here’s to the new revolution. The anti-unlimited data revolution.

Go on…turn off everything. I dare you.

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