It happened this week and it shook me to my core. I’d just come out the underground and was looking at Google Maps to work out which way my destination was, when a man on a bike swiped my phone right out of my hands and rode off into the night.
It was almost graceful, the way he did it – like he’d done it a hundred times before, which he probably had. Not so poised however, was the way I shrieked and embarrassingly, pleaded, as I ran after him for a few hundred yards. But that was it. My phone was… gone. In a matter of seconds.
I instantly berated myself for using it so close to the road like a river salmon offering itself to a bird of prey – but a lovely man who witnessed the whole thing assured me I wasn’t that near to the kerb and the thief mounted the pavement to get to me. Scoundrel.
Three days later, I’ve just about managed to stop myself replaying the horrible moment again and again in my head and get back into the accounts I locked myself out of due to forgetting half my passwords. I’ve even banished the unsavoury fantasies about travelling back in time and pushing the crook into oncoming traffic as he went for the grab. But now I’m a bit out of pocket after having to fork out for a new handset and have lost all my pictures, videos and contacts since May 2016.
“But Lindsey, didn’t you regularly back up?”
What happened to me is not extraordinary. Thefts like this happen all the time, especially in London. What is extraordinary however, is how the absence of my phone for around 48 hours left me feeling like that sacrificial salmon once again – but this time out of the water and gasping for life.
I know it’s sad but I sheepishly concur it’s true. Short of putting the thing on the highest vibration setting and slipping it down my pants, I use my phone for pretty much everything.
As a digital producer, it’s literally my job to be on social media 24/7 and as well as using it for the traditional communication purposes, my phone is also my alarm clock, my means of internet banking and shopping and a quick gateway to all my email accounts, of which I have a fair few, due to creative projects such as this blog.
It’s also my camera, and image editor, my notepad, my encyclopaedia; it tells me how fast I’m going when I’m running and how well I’m sleeping. It even tells me when my next period is due.
You could even say I feel like my phone is my friend. It’s my portal to talking to people I know and love all over the world and keeping in touch with my family. I use it to entertain myself and others and I use it to learn. I don’t get out of bed before finding out what everyone is talking about on Twitter – a platform that instantly gratifies and makes me laugh and cry on a regular basis.
But when I really think about it, it’s actually quite creepy just how much my life is ruled by a little metal tablet.
And honestly, the small amount of time I spent without it was plain horrible. I tried to spin the situation positively in my head – telling myself I could do with a digital detox and maybe I could actually… you know, converse with people in real life more now.
But actually, no, it wasn’t detoxifying or enlightening. Not having everything to hand made my job the morning after the theft quite stressful – something I really didn’t need in my first week in a new role – and my brain started going a bit haywire as it realised I couldn’t just check my emails on the go, or my girls’ group chat during a break, or tweet that wandering thought, or take a picture of that funny thing for my Instagram story. Which in turn got me wondering, why is that sort of stuff so important to me anyway?
It’s not, of course. But it’s habit – nay, addiction, which makes me feel kind of pathetic.
The magnitude of my compulsion is such, that like a smoker who eats more when they’re giving up, my hands were grasping for something to hold in my pocket as I walked down the road, my eyes yearning for something to read and look at when they weren’t doing anything else.
I’d feel more mortified if I thought I was the only one with this unhealthy attachment but I’m not, of course. The day after this happened I literally watched a woman walk in front of a car because her nose was in a little screen. The motorist beeped angrily, causing her to glance up nonchalantly before she resumed automatic phone zombie pose. The only reason I witnessed this was probably because I didn’t have my own phone to stare at.
So now I’ve got a new one and therefore my “life” back, with everything once again available to hand, encapsulated in a little rectangle of pixels. And yes, I’m relieved but also acutely aware that something needs to change.
I’m not just talking about being addicted. Having something so valuable snatched out of my very hands so quickly was massively sobering. It made me realise how suddenly things can change and that actually I’m very lucky that it wasn’t a worse situation, like an acid or terrorist attack. At the end of the day, I wasn’t harmed and it was only a sodding phone.
It also made me feel that I need to be more in the moment and aware of my surroundings. That my norm should be looking at the people around me and what they’re doing and listening to what they’re saying rather than reading the often fleeting, trivial words of strangers somewhere else.
I also keep thinking about what sort of life the guy on the bike must be living to go around doing that to people. I lost my phone but he’s lost his way.
On that note, time to turn off, go outside and engage with the real world for a bit, I think.