On a blistering Saturday afternoon in May, I tied the knot with my partner of five years.
Though it might sound cliché – or just downright vomit-inducing – it was, to date, the best day of my entire life.
The sun shone down on us, my family and friends smiled, and I managed not to stain my wedding dress until several hours later, when an energetically dancing wedding guest upended a vodka soda all over me.
It was utter bliss.
But one of the nicest parts about the day had absolutely nothing to do with the bouquet, the groom, or the vows we exchanged. Instead, it had everything to do with the noticeable absence of my cell phone for a heavenly 24 hours.
I had enlisted the help of my best friend earlier in the day to commandeer my phone and she took charge of fielding texts, calls, and WhatsApp messages from friends wishing me luck and asking if it was 1pm or 1:30pm that they were supposed to meet me at City Hall.
I initially felt completely naked without it, worrying that someone would be trying to contact me, or momentarily forgetting the arrangement and panicking that I’d lost my device. But pretty quickly I forgot all about it and began to experience – in the truest sense of that word – the day without distraction.
It was so refreshing not to have anything glued to my hand and to actually take everything in. It felt like I had been wearing blinkers, but now the world went panoramic, stripped away from any peripheral interruptions as if the screen had extended widthways at the cinema just before the film is about to start.
I saw everyone’s faces – nervous, excited, full of hope, and expectation. I saw strangers’ faces too. I noticed how beautiful the city looked. Observing all these things for my own benefit and no one else’s felt empowering – as if I had a little secret of my own.
But the truth is, it shouldn’t take such a special occasion for us to put down the phone and take a break from technology. It’s so easy to get caught up in capturing every moment of our lives, but sometimes by trying not to miss a single thing we actually end up missing all of it.
It’s a hallmark of millennial life to always feel the need to be connected, but I’ve never felt more connected with the world than I did on Saturday.
Of course, I won’t have the luxury of an amazing photographer who is sure to get my best side every weekend – and I’m not about to call an amnesty on all of our devices.
Many of the people I love live across the Atlantic so I recognize and appreciate the importance of technology bringing us closer as well as anyone.
But perhaps it’s OK to give up checking my phone while I cross the road. Maybe I could manage the short walk from my apartment to the subway without frantically checking it for notifications.
It’s great that we have the power to capture a moment and share it with friends, family, and the wider world. However, when it becomes an obsession – when I worry that it’s 3pm on a Sunday afternoon and I’m yet to post a picture of how my day is going on Instagram – it becomes a dependency; a fiction.
And that’s when it’s time to step back and re-evaluate.
We need to trust that the earth will keep on spinning even if we don’t check Facebook for three hours and people will survive without us replying rapid-fire to a stream of messages.
So give yourself a break, put life on flight mode for a couple of hours, and you might just find you don’t miss it all that much.
Of course the world was bound to look a little rosier on my wedding day, but I haven’t given up my new-found freedom completely since the big day. I’ve begun setting myself challenges – just little ones to begin with. Can I get through this episode of House of Cards without checking my phone? *knocks desk with knuckles as confirmation*
Ok, great. Now, how about enjoying a pleasant evening with friends without pressing the home button of your phone at three minute intervals? Could you even save the uploading and chronicling until later and make it one entire day without checking your screen?
It’s not possible to live without our phones in 2016 – but if we’re not careful, we’ll all wake up in 20 years’ time with a camera roll full of pictures to replace our memories.