A couple of weeks ago, I had a pretty severe bout of forgetfulness when, on a Monday, I left my phone at home. Then, that Tuesday, I forgot to bring my wallet to work. Can you guess which one I couldn't get through the day without?
I couldn't even get through my morning commute without my phone. And it wasn't because of an addiction to social media. I don't consider myself addicted to my smartphone, but I realize I'm dependent on it for other vital necessities.
Monday morning, I was rushing out the door to squeeze in a doctor's appointment before work. I ran to catch the cross-town bus and traveled an avenue before realizing I didn't have my phone on me. After a moment of panic, I thought to myself "No big deal, I just won't be able to listen to music on my commute today."
I had become quite comfortable with the idea of going through a day untethered to my phone. But, by the time the bus had traveled another avenue, panic set back in. I actually had no idea where I was going! I was seeing a new doctor, and had no idea where the office was - the address was stored in my iphone calendar.
Feeling completely directionless, I managed to bob and weave my way out of the bus just before it made the dreaded journey across Central Park. I ran home, picked up my phone and started my commute over again.
Tuesday morning, I didn't realize my wallet was missing until lunchtime. I made it an entire half a day without needing money, credit cards or identification. Lunch was not a problem, thanks to my Seamless app I was able to buy food without ever exchanging actual cash.
It wasn't until I remembered I was supposed to attend a book party that night that I thought maybe I'd need my wallet. But, it turned out, I didn't. An app on my phone came to the rescue again. I Uber-ed by way around town, virtually paying for rides in a few quick swipes and taps.
I had initially asked a co-worker if she could lend me some cash, because I felt unsafe without having any money on me. But by the time the book party was over, I decided I was fine to get home with no money.
The following week, I moderated an AdWeek panel where I asked a group of digital executives about the rise of mobile, and if smartphones are our friend or foe. One of the panelists, Susan Panico, VP of Sales and Marketing at Pandora, serendipitously raised the question, "Which would you rather not have with you? Your smartphone or your wallet?" There was a clear consensus that pretty soon it won't matter much because phones are becoming wallets anyway.
The theme resurfaced later that week when I had the opportunity to hear from Korean Buddhist Monk, Pomnyun Sunim, and he was asked about his point of view on technology. He said there is no value judgement, technology is neither good nor bad. In fact, he said iPads can be great!
He cautioned that addiction comes when we constantly check our devices because we're 'curious' about what comes next.
He urged the audience to test themselves, and try to go a weekend without technology. He also said to try the same test with cash and credit cards.
Having accidentally put myself through the test the week prior, I realize how thankful I am that technology has come so far. My phone provides practical utility on a daily basis far beyond my vices of facebook, pandora, email and shopping apps. I know this isn't exactly the state of enlightenment Sunim had in mind. But, I like that things like directions, payments, schedules and contacts are accessible to my fingertips and I'm happy to be able to rely on technology to make my life easier.
Would you rather leave home without your smartphone or your wallet? Take our poll!