Abandon your post
Having discovered the extent of her mobile phone usage, Eve Jones resolves to live more for the moment – after she’s posted that nice view from the covert…
A SHORT while back I was trawling the settings on my mobile phone and stumbled across a terrifying thing. My usage stats. They were so embarrassing that I can’t bring myself to tell you how many hours I average on the ghastly device but suffice to say I have a matter of weeks before my hand cements in a claw shape, my eyeballs turn into dry ice cubes and my brain dissolves and runs out of my earholes.
Before you think it, the entire time is not spent on dating apps (more’s the pity, I might actually have gained something useful). Nor is it spent searching new business opportunities, feverishly emailing clients or bashing out commissions. There are some acceptable uses – a phone call occasionally (what novelty), text messages, bus timetables, tube directions, audio books, maps, columns typed out in the notes section (funny one-liners in the pub typed out in the notes section) and ok, yes, a spattering of Bumble swipes here and there. The miserable reality is that the rest of the time, literally hours of my life, is spent on social media. Real, whole hours per week pawing over Instagram and Facebook, insularly, mindlessly, looking through other people’s lives, dinners, holidays or babies, then posting pictures of my own and checking who viewed the story I posted last night with kebab on my face and wondering whether I should have deleted it (not sure men find it that cute, in hindsight) while my brain slowly turns to mush.
Phones make you boring, less competent, because they make everything so simple you become an idiot. I can’t spell any more; predictive text does that. I have expensive cameras I can’t remember how to use because I just waggle my phone at things and click. I struggle to concentrate for longer than 20 words. I even question using a map without a blinking blue triangle telling me which way to move my feet. There was a time when driving somewhere meant reading a map, using your brain and having a stonking row over getting lost when doing it in pairs, the latter usually making for a good anecdote. Now we endure the tedium of Google Maps stories at supper from types who keep phones by their plates. “We took the A38, which was a change but Siri told Michael there was an accident on the M5, which took us off two junctions early and we stopped at the Little Chef services…” by which time you are wishing Michael and Jenny had been in the accident on the M5 to save you their drivel and, dragged down to the lowest common denominator, are wondering whether you could check your phone to see if your neighbour’s colicking horse has done a poo yet.
I was given my first phone when I was a teen, the idea being if I fell off a horse and broke my leg I could call for help. We’ve been surgically attached ever since. The fact that in 1999 you may as well have been in Mongolia as Oxfordshire for all the signal you got was by the by, and when I did fall off with my phone in my back pocket I slid bottom first from a rearing horse, creating a perfect phone-print bruise (buttons and all) on my right bum cheek. Days later, a horse spooked and bolted leaving me sitting with a replica bruise on my left, no reception and a two-mile walk home. Thankfully, this was before camera phones and Instagram or there would have been published evidence. Pre-mobiles, the 10th Duke of Beaufort wrote recommending that riders carried loose change tied in a corner of a hankie in a pocket when hunting. I carry my phone, the equivalent, in a sandwich bag, which in theory keeps it waterproof if I’m drowning in a ditch but, realistically, is a fiddly deterrent to taking photos to post at every interval.
Which, sadly, is the worst problem to me. Not mindlessly killing time on a phone on the tube, or scrolling the minutia of people’s lives in front of the TV, or even the too frequent sense of inadequacy that comes from spying on artificially curated lives, it’s that the habitual need to stop, snap, post, to – let’s face it – show off, becomes greater than the need to experience itself.
I realised, while out autumn hunting and lining a cover, that I was eyeing up the landscape for the best Instagramable views. My horse was paying more attention to hounds than me. Now we’re fully in the throes of the hunting and shooting seasons, unless you are one of the rare and sensible folk who doesn’t engage in social media, it’s likely your streams will be jammed with fieldsports pictures. Autumn brought hounds in dawn-pink-drenched stubble fields, whipped up garron manes on Scottish hills and partridge-speckled skies. By now, opening meets and pheasant flushes will have flooded the ether as well. And, yes, they are beautiful. Yes, it is a window to spectacular countryside sports but the irony is that hunting and shooting should epitomise technology detox. The experience of the field can only properly be felt in the moment, it doesn’t exist on a screen. For every piece of fieldsport spam that is snapped then scoured, liked and envied, and subconsciously banked to compete with, its author probably missed the moment.
I’d be lying if I said I was going on a strict detox. Telephone cold turkey just isn’t me. But a reality check is in place. On the few days I am lucky to take this season, I plan to concentrate on the company, sport and countryside, and master the reins or gun in my hand not be slave to the screen in my palm.
I realised, out hunting, that I was eyeing up the landscape for the best Instagramable views