Everyone talks about how important it is to turn off our phones, step away from the screens, be present with the people around us, and be in tune with nature. My Shakespeare professor spent the first ten minutes of our lecture, lecturing us on how phone were making us stupid. I’ve always assumed climbing made my connection to my phone more limited, that because I am outdoorsy clearly I don’t need my phone. We go into outdoor spaces and, despite our Instagram stories and frequent calls to loved ones, we assume we are stepping away from the rest of the world. We think we are alone in nature.
The last time I was outside and completely without service was in Indian Creek last November. The lack of cell phone service is one of the many things that makes Bears Ears National Monument an alluring place to visit. That being said, in the southeast and the closer you get to cities, the harder it is to truly distance yourself from the distractions of the world and your phone. In the morning, when I wake up, I sit and scroll through Instagram for ten minutes. I’ve spent entire thirty minute lunch breaks bouncing between various social media platforms. Every once in awhile, the thought that I have become boring and disenchanted, disengaged from the people around me, will pass into my brain before leaving with the next swipe of my thumb.
Several weeks ago, after feeling overwhelmed by myself and the many events I had obliged to go to in September, I grabbed a girlfriend and headed to Alabama. At 9pm on Thursday, halfway through our drive, I turned my phone off. We pulled into our campsite at Horse Pens 40, set up our tent, drank hot apple cider with a few shots of spiced rum, and talked. I played with my camera, attempting to capture the few star visible, and we talked about how many other people were camping that night. The following day we romped around the boulders sweating, sliding, and grunting our way up some of the best and silliest boulders we could find. Periodically, I would reach for my phone, press the home button, only to see the black screen staring up at me. We finished our trip with purple finger tips and milkshakes, and by 6pm on Friday my phone was finally turned back on.
One day was too short. The freedom from reality, and my focus turned solely to the moment I was in, was wonderful. My phone now often feels like a brick in my hand or pocket. While my love for Instagram and Facebook is strong, turning my phone off is a reminder that being connected constantly isn’t healthy for me. It brings anxiety, distraction, and occasionally the inability to finish complete thoughts when I’m talking to people (sorry friends). I believe social media is a powerful tool to connect, educate, and make change, it is also exhausting, anxiety inducing, and sometimes labor intensive. There is no one way to enjoy time outside, but I would recommend, every once in a while turning your phone off and actively focusing on the people around you. I’m going to work to spend more time away from my many bright screens, despite the fact that my phone is currently next to me and I will certainly advertise this on Facebook and Instagram. Does anyone have any good chalk-proof watch recommendations? Preferably without alert functions.