Enhanced connection: Learning how to leave behind the phone and find freedom

By Maiya Mahoney gargoyle@flagler.edu

Waking up in the hot, sweltering Tennessee sun, my sleeping bag clung to my sweat-drenched skin. Rolling over to check the time, I realize my phone was dead.  

At first, I panicked. 

It was only day three of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and without a way to charge my phone, I had no way to document my experience or communicate with the “outside world.” 

So as I locked my phone away in the car and left it behind to go into the festival, I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time: free. 

Without my phone, those last two days of Bonnaroo would end up being some of my best memories, and one of the few times I felt truly present in the moment.  

Whether we would like to admit it or not, we depend on our phones for pretty much everything. According to a June 2019 Pew Research Report, 96% of Americans own a cell phone, while 81% own smartphones. We use our phones to communicate with others, to document our lives and post about them, and google our random questions. We even rely on our phones to wake us up in the morning by setting alarms. They even have a flashlight.  

Phones allow us to effortlessly communicate with those around the world and stay up to date on the latest news. They allow the world to be interconnected, but if anything our phones disconnect us from reality and to what is happening right in front of our eyes. According to research from RescueTime, one of the apps created to monitor cell phone use, people tend to spend an average of three hours and 15 minutes on their phones everyday.    

Maybe most importantly, as I found out at Bonnaroo, they keep us from developing connections with those around us. Instead of talking face to face with one another, people text. When we are waiting in line at the coffee shop, we look down at our phones; afraid to engage in real-life conversations.

Even sometimes talking to a close relative or friend, we are not fully listening; scrolling through social media with one hand while listening and looking up every once in awhile.  

Authentic connections in this digital age are much harder due to cell phones.        

The first two days of Bonnaroo I spent behind a small screen, trying to capture every moment through a camera lens. Things changed when my phone died.

The last two days I spent fully immersing myself in the environment and in every lyric and human interaction. I felt as if I had a heightened sense of appreciation for the beauty around me. So many people from different walks of life all joined together to listen to music. All the stresses of real life put on hold for four days of live music.  

For me, I was truly disconnected without my phone, but this time in a good way. No longer was I tied to the insecurities that came with comparing myself to others on social media. 

No longer was I listening for a text notification or email alert. I had never realized the stress my phone caused me, until I was forced to be without it. The experience taught me how to truly disconnect and instead connect with peace.  

It’s something we could all learn from: How much we rely on our phones and the amount of time we spend on them. That we don’t take enough time to look up every once in a while. 

But an experience like this taught me to stay off my phone more. Now I never take my phone out to record at concerts. I’ve learned to set my phone down when talking to someone and try to give them my full attention.

When I feel overwhelmed by social media or my phone in general, I put it away and journal more because of it.  

At the end of Bonnaroo, I was sleep-deprived, in much need of a shower, and with a dead, useless phone. Despite all of this, I was happy.

I didn’t want to leave Bonnaroo and its positive all-encompassing energy. I didn’t want to plug my phone in to charge it, but I had to in order to update my family and friends that I was indeed alright — just too busy living in the moment.   

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