That time Digi-Bridge took away the technological safety blanket

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There are few things that depress me more than seeing a group of people at a restaurant sitting in silence as everyone stares at their respective phones. Because I’m aware of this, I make an effort to be present with the people I’m out with. But I also admit that I refresh my social media feeds more than I even realize. Also, if I leave my phone behind, you’d better believe I’m turning around to go get it no matter how late it will make me.

My admitted smartphone dependence made me especially interested to attend the #TBT event hosted by non-profit group Digi-Bridge. The organization’s goal is to get local students access to technology in order to improve their educational experience. Besides supporting this worthy cause, I figured it would be fascinating to watch a group of smartphone addicts like me react to having their devices stored safely away for the duration of the event.

Once I surrendered my phone, I headed into Earl’s Grocery. I was impressed by the turnout for the event, and went to take a picture to post on Instagram. I instinctively dug through my bag for a minute before I realized that no pictures would be happening.

As I headed to get a drink because I didn’t really know what to do with my hands without my phone taking up space in them, I ran into someone I had been chatting with on Twitter.

“We finally met in real life! Let’s take a selfie!” I exclaimed. Nope.

Later, I got into a conversation about Halloween costumes. “I was Carmen San Diego for Halloween,” I volunteered. “Here I’ll show you a…oh. Well, I had a red trenchcoat and a red hat. Not like a fedora, but one of those big, floppy ones.” My description would have to suffice.

Despite these slightly frustrating moments, being phoneless also had a number of perks. I would consider myself an extroverted introvert, so networking events can be nerve-wracking for me. There were several times when I found myself reaching for my phone when I felt awkward. I needed my technological safety blanket. When I realized I had no crutch to lean on, I had to make it a point to continue to stay engaged and present.

It also felt freeing knowing that I didn’t have to worry about checking my e-mail to see if a client needed me or wondering what I was missing in a group text. Sometimes I feel my phone’s presence and feel compelled to check it simply because it’s there. It was nice to separate for a while and let my FOMO work itself out.

Despite the enjoyable break (which I would like to make a regular thing), I have to say that I was happy to get back to Snapchat and Twitter when the event was over. Those are fun. Oh, and I also appreciated knowing that I could use my GPS if  the need presented itself. Pre-Internet Lauren would have spent a lot of time being lost in sketchy neighborhoods.

Photo: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg

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