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Stephen Hackett's weblog about Apple, Apple history, technology, journalism and design.

iPhoneless: The Holidays

I’ve never enjoyed the holidays the way I think other people do.

If we were to spend some time on a couch talking about this, I’m sure there are lots of reasons that would come during my session. Perhaps I could blame my parents, or my son’s cancer. Maybe it is because I struggled with depression for years before seeking treatment. Or maybe it’s my tendency to be introverted, especially while in a group of people.

My guess is that many nerds struggle with this type of thing — especially the bit about groups.

For years, I would get dragged to family dinners and gift swaps by my wife, often complaining. It’s been a point of stress in our relationship, without a doubt.

For the last five years, I’ve used my iPhone as an escape. I wasn’t rude, I don’t think, with my usage, but I liked the comfort of being tethered to the Internet, knowing I could always make up an excuse to slip out of a conversation about why my political views are silly, or answering for the 150th time what I do for a living.

This year, I find myself without that crutch. While it’s by my own doing, I can’t help but feel anxious when we pull up to someone’s house for a couple of hours of eating and hanging out for Christmas.

Out of habit, I often pull my phone out of my pocket. Now, instead of pressing the Sleep/Wake button, I flip it open, hoping a text message or missed call will be my savior, offering me an escape route to the backyard.

Chances are that no one would say anything if I did this with an iPhone, but my flip phone leads to questions.

“Aren’t you a tech guy? Where’s your iPhone?”

“Oh, did your smartphone break? You gotta get that replaced!”

“Dude, 2003 called and wants your phone back.”

I’ve gotten used to this sort of ribbing from friends who know about my experiment. However, my extended family doesn’t know (for the most part, at least) that I write on the Internet, so they are completely unaware of the experiment.

I have whittled down my original blog post to just a few sentences when it comes to real life conversations. Usually I just mumble something about the time I used to waste dicking around on my phone and take another bite of pie, hoping there’s not a follow-up question. Sometimes, I just fib and tell them it was about the cost of my cell phone bill, and that I’m enjoying the pile of cash I’m saving each month.

My reluctance to get in to this conversation with my family members is partially related to the fact that I don’t want to have to explain that I write a widely-read tech blog and have an entire side business devoted to it. I don’t expect my wife’s great-aunt to understand what that means, not to mention get behind the idea.

Part of it, though, goes back to what I was writing about at the top of this thing. I’m uncomfortable throughout the holiday season, and I’ve taken one of my few security blankets away.

I hope one day to look back at this year without mobile data and see that it had some positive effect on my life. While I know removing something as simple as an iPhone isn’t going to make me a better man (or fix anything that’s broken in my life), I do hope that the bandwidth in my brain that I have freed up allows me to make some progress on things, including enjoying the holidays more.