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Slave to Phone

From zero dependence to addiction. In Dec 2017 I left the US having near zero dependence on a phone. One month later in 2018, my smart-phone has taken over my life, for better or for worse.

The first two years I was in the US, I was tied to a AT&T line, paid USD70 (a lot of money for an international student!!) each month for barely using my plan. Why I was so blind to even sign up for that plan is a story for another day. I was so frustrated with paying the monthly fees, I cancelled my plan once it expired and for the next 5.5 years, I never had a US phone plan. I survived on a free phone app which gave me a legit US number and worked only when I was on WIFI.

I survived. And I think I survived pretty well. I didn't miss being attached to a device. I wasn't missed either. Some people definitely were not as chill that I was not constantly contactable, but at the end of the day we all survived.

I used an old dinky iPhone4 till apps couldn't even be updated anymore and kicked me out. When my iPhone 4 crashed, I bought a no-frills $60 Motorola phone (yes, yes, who even uses Motorola now right? I know!) which while being smart, had no data plan attached to it anyway! Of course there were inconveniences, I had to check up places ahead of time before I ventured out. If I got lost, there's no whipping out of Google maps, I just have to figure my way out the old-fashioned way.

I used my phone mostly just to tell time. There were so many days I went to school without my phone and only feeling lost because I didn't know what time it was. Of course that's life of a grad student. I knew I needed a functional smart phone once I got back to Singapore and started working. A few days before I returned, I finally sucked it up, marched into an Apple store, emptied my bank account for an iPhone 7 for myself and an iPhone SE for my mum.

Woohoo! Whatsapp, Facebook, Insta - all that good old social media and entertainment on the go! What can be better. Work at one's fingertips, the joy of a workaholic, making things happen and being efficient! Since I've been spending a lot of time commuting while attempting to stick to my PUBLIC TRANSPORT ONLY (for now) resolution, I've gotten a lot done on the go. I'm also updated, for once, and also actually now contactable 24/7.


I've also missed MRT stops countless times just because I tell myself, "Oh, let's just reply that message now! There's still time to reply that email right? Oh I better tell so-and-so about this before I forget!" and then I get so absorbed in work that oops...

At least nowadays with multiple MRT lines, I usually just end up taking a way longer route home. Perhaps taking the train a few stops back would be less time-consuming, but it also makes me feel more silly! =)

All the real side effects of my phone addiction are kicking in. I've lost sleep. Quality sleep is rare. I'm constantly distracted. Never focused. Of course it's not solely due to the phone, but it definitely plays a huge role.

A simple example is commuting.

My parents moved to Serangoon, from our good old Geylang dwelling which hosted numerous steamboats, durian parties and just gatherings in general, while I was in school in the US. And with all the new MRT lines which has sprouted out recently, I'm constantly needing to check MRT maps. But isn't checking it ONCE sufficient? Sometimes I catch myself checking a route for the 10th time, because I was so distracted while checking it the first 9 times I have no clue where I'm headed again or simply for no reason at all. Or I could have checked the route and end up boarding the wrong train anyway! With a naturally huge attention deficiency even without a source of distraction, when I don't structure my life, all goes haywire. With additional distraction, hell breaks lose and it gives me more anxiety as well. But well, that will have to be managed somehow... work in progress! =)

2 weeks ago when I walked into a room to work with a group of violin students, the room was absolutely silent. All kids were staring at their phones, instruments still tucked neatly in their cases. The first thing each child did during the break was to reach out for their phones, silence once again. Granted that the kids also just started working together so they were unfamiliar with each other as well, but were they going to get more familiar by staring at their phones?

We started a phone corner where the kids, after some whining and attempt to run away from the exercise, placed their phone during the entire rehearsal. It was as much for the students as it was for me, I wanted to learn more about Singapore students nowadays and also wished for them to have an avenue to share with and listen to their peers. With some guided activities, the students shared about themselves, listened to others and responded. Many were reserved initially, but by the time we came to 4th little sharing session, they all warmed up and were sharing very personal issues with the group, laughing and talking among themselves. I didn't care if the kids got slightly rowdy, it was way better than phones and silence. It was a short 2 week session I spent with them but I hope it sparked off long-term friendships or at least start the building of a community where these kids treat as a safe haven to share their problems as well as happiness.

I'm still finding my life balance with my phone, as I am with my eating habits, work-life, and other different aspects of my life. Each extreme is an detrimental as the other.

The first month in Singapore has been incredibly exciting and credit goes to friends and people/partners I've been meeting. I'm also thankful for all the teaching opportunities I've been given in the first month. There's so much to look forward for music education in Singapore, more in my next blog post! =)


Tee '18

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