I’ve been without a cell phone since last Thursday. What started as a break from constant Facebook notifications, texts and tweets has become an unmitigated, nerve-wracking inconvenience.
Let me tell you how it happened: early that morning, I checked my phone, then told it to reboot.
With smartphones, just like with personal computers, you’re supposed to do this about once a day. But when my smartphone started back up, it wasn’t registering that I had a subscriber identity module (or, SIM card for short), the chip that allows me to send and receive data over Verizon’s network.
Weird, I thought. I removed the back cover of the phone, the battery and the tiny SIM card, then replaced all three. When I turned my phone back on, it got stuck in what’s called a “bootloop,” unable to move past the start-up screen.
I like to think I’m a pretty tech-savvy guy. I know that bootloops occur when your operating system fails to start, and are an easy problem to fix; all you have to do is perform a factory reset on the phone, which deletes any custom software and reverts the phone to its original settings.
In order to do a factory reset, you press and hold down the phone’s power and volume up and down buttons at the same time. About four months ago, my phone got wet, and the volume up button hasn’t worked since. Which means I can’t do a factory reset, which means I’m stuck with a phone in an eternal bootloop, which means I’ll probably have to buy a new one—and since I’m broke, that’s not going to happen immediately.
Which means I’ll have to go without for a while.
As someone who’s been on the smartphone bandwagon since 2011, not having the internet at my fingertips is almost painful. I can’t Google directions in the car if I get lost, or look up words and ideas I’m not familiar with. I took having constant access to the knowledge of the modern age for granted; now that it’s gone, I realize what a powerful tool that access was.
I can deal with not being able to constantly check Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If I want to get in touch with my friends, I have to send a message through Facebook with my laptop, which they can receive and read on their smartphones. Even with the added inconvenience of having to communicate from the computer, my social life hasn’t suffered much. I’m kind of a hermit.
The absolute worst part of not having a cell phone is feeling cut off from my family. If my dad wanted to call just to talk or check up on me, he wouldn’t be able to. I haven’t spoken to my mom or grandmother—they normally call at least once a week—in seven days or more.
All week long, I’ve been afraid that something terrible could happen to someone I love, and I would be the last to know because no one can get in touch with me.
That’s a horrible feeling.
I’ve heard people—especially older people—complain about how much time our generation spends with technology, and maybe some of us do take things a little too far (I’m looking at you, Instagram addicts). But being connected to the people you care about and the rest of the world is a wonderful thing, and it’s something I won’t take for granted ever again.