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Imagine a World Without Your iPhone

No, really. Try to. Or better yet, why not actually put down your phone and live in the real world?
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Years ago, I was running late to a meeting, as usual, and realized I’d left the house without my cell phone. If I turned back, I’d be really late. No big deal, I thought. Before long, I’d forgotten all about it. The world didn’t end. I lived to see another day.

Try that now. That’s right, just try getting in your car and driving a few blocks without your precious iPhone. You’d be panic-stricken. You’d feel less anxiety if you hopped on the highway and, 20 miles later, realized you left your kid at the gas station.

On the surface, we all seem to be more independent, more empowered, more capable of taking care of business than ever before. After all, this is the entrepreneurial society. Everyone’s a CEO. Everyone with a computer and an IP address has a blog and a brand. Everyone has a voice and an attitude. Everyone’s a focus group of one.  

Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s all just a façade. It couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, our happiness and well-being is more dependent on more things than ever before. This isn’t the Me generation. This is the Needy generation.  

We used to be rugged individuals who paved our own trails and made our own way with little more than an axe and a horse. These days we’re completely and utterly dependent on a long, long chain of gadgets, services, networks, and media. We’re not fiercely independent. We’re the opposite of that. We’re fearfully dependent. 

What would you do without your smartphone, tablet, computer, game console, apps, internet service, cable or satellite service, phone service, TVs, favorite shows, satellite radio, router, and email service? What would you do without Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Yelp, Amazon.com, eBay, Fedex and UPS?

God knows, we can stay plenty busy without half those things. That’s not the problem.

The Real Problem

The problem is that we’ve become so addicted to having what we want, when we want it, that if UPS tracking misses by a day or Twitter goes down for a few hours, we go into withdrawal fits like an addict in need of a fix.    

Don’t even get me started on all the “necessities” of modern life. We’d die without our Starbucks. How would we sue each other without our lawyers? How would we get by without our accountants, bankers, investment advisors, loans, credit cards, and insurance policies? How would we feel safe without ADT, Life Alert, LifeLock, Carbonite, and our ever-watchful security software?  

These days, even problems with an app are home-page news.

Just yesterday, Australian police had to rescue six motorists stranded in a national park by bad directions from Apple’s new mapping software. Two weeks ago Apple fired the executive in charge of the map app debacle, Richard Williamson. Reports that he was seen snickering behind a bush in the Outback is probably just a rumor.

Not only that, but Google actually had a Gmail service outage for a few hours yesterday. You could feel the anxiety out there. People were panicking. What if it never comes back up? What if it was like that TV show, “Revolution,” where the power goes out and the world is plunged into anarchy?

So, what’s the point of all this? Simple. The next time you can’t access your email or Facebook account for whatever reason, don’t sweat it. Just go out and take a walk. Pick up the phone and network with a real person. Or just sit and think or, better yet, sit and feel.

Try giving up the gadgets on the weekends. They’ll still be there come Monday morning. And you know what? I bet the online world will turn just fine without you.

Try it. Just think of all the fun you can have with all that extra time. And how free your mind will feel without that constant tug, without that addictive need for instant gratification. You know how you’ll feel? You’ll feel a little bit like a rugged individual. You’ll feel a lot less needy. You’ll feel free. And you’ll feel good. Really good.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Steve Rhodes/Flickr
Last updated: Dec 11, 2012

STEVE TOBAK | Columnist

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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