You realize how much you rely on your phone only when you have to shut it off

You hear it all the time: a smartphone is the best way to keep in touch with friends and family, know what's happening in the world, and have a little fun now and then. But I found out that you can come to depend on it being the only way to do these things, and when you can't have it you might feel lost.

I've had a round of doctors probing and poking at my back this winter. That's not something unusual for me, but this go 'round involved three minor surgeries. Ouch. I just had the third (and final, thank heavens) done and unintentionally spent some time cut off from everything because I was without my phone.

I had just finished the thing and was trying to get comfy in an uncomfortable hospital bed. I reached into my little pack (Be prepared; my scoutmaster taught me that!) and grabbed my phone to send a few messages to my people. I had just finished hollering at Daniel and the rest of the crew to let them know I survived, and a nurse with a look on her face that said "don't argue with me" told me to shut it off and give it to my wife to take out of the room. Apparently, my room was part of the intensive care ward and had oxygen lines (or something, I'm no medical technician guy) and electronics were not allowed. No big deal, I was only there for one night so they could watch me sleep or whatever creepy thing they like to do at hospitals. Or so I thought.

Being alone with my thoughts was not nearly as fun as I ever imagined it would be.

My wife made sure I was settled in, then she had to go to work. So it was just me and my thoughts. The book I had planned to read was a Kindle book on my phone. There was no TV, no radio, no anything besides me and the little voice in my head. Normally people slept in this room, I was just in it because scheduling around hospital renovations made it empty and convenient. I literally had nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs until the next morning when I could leave, and it was simply maddening. I could have brought a book or a stack of magazines or something to pass the time, but I didn't because my phone does all that stuff.

I know I'm not alone here. Not in the stuck in a hospital bed way, but in the depending on my phone to be everything way. These little gadgets have worked their way into our lives and replaced so many things like books or music players or even televisions, and I have always taken that for granted — I always have my phone in my pocket. That means I have the news, some music, YouTube and Netflix, plus a way to talk to real people with me all the time and never thought twice about it. At least until it was too late to do anything.

I love having a phone that does it all, but I'm going to start packing a book, too.

It's great that we have these wonderful contraptions and that they can do so many things. But I'm going to make sure I pack a book or two along the next time I'm planning to be away from home for a day or two because without my phone I felt isolated and alone once I got over the boredom. And this was just one day; I don't want to think about being cut off for an extended period of time. Being alone with my thoughts was not nearly as fun as I ever imagined it would be.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.