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Break free from phones during holidays [Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)]
[January 10, 2014]

Break free from phones during holidays [Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)]

(Gulf News (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Abu Dhabi: Smartphones have become such inescapable fixtures of modern life that they have joined the ranks of the airplane and the internet: it is difficult to imagine what life was like before them.

Some — an endangered few — can't stand them and don't use them, but the rest of us have long been led to the User camp, wittingly or otherwise. By the end of this year, the number of mobile phone subscriptions will reach 6.8 billion; to lend that figure perspective, the population of the earth is 7.1 billion. Some people even own and operate eight phones at once.

A phone reserved for family, a phone relegated to office-related communication, the essential phone-for-friends, and the rest for other various contacts. Certainly to those of us who've been won over, the prospect of a phone jettison is unthinkable, some might say unreasonable.

But what about doing it for a day, even for a while? How about, in our little ways, reclaiming some of the territory usurped by the Phone Regent? Too unreasonable? "The reasonable man," George Bernard Shaw says, "adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." Mohammad Musaalam Al Junaibi, an Emirati PhD student in business administration, said he got his first mobile phone when he graduated from university.

"Smartphones should only be used when necessary," he says, stressing these devices should not take over time "we set aside for business, family or leisure." The 36-year-old father of two children said: "I am trying hard to instil the culture of smart use of mobile phones in my children. My six-year-old son used to play games on my iPad, which recently malfunctioned. His mother and I decided no replacement will be provided to my son until he is 18 years old, so that he can enjoy life." Abby Alexander, an 18-year-old American, says, after going through an enforced separation with her mobile phone, she feels she was more content with her life before the rise of the devices.

"After my phone was stolen last week, my respite from the ‘electronic leash', began. This enforced separation, which was hellish at first, seems almost a relief I don't hear that obnoxious little chirp of a new tweet, Facebook notification or snapchat." "Sometimes, I feel the overpowering need to check an electronic device and tell the world what I had for lunch, but I struggle against that urge. I realised I possess an attention span longer than a minute, and conversations no longer lapse into silence only broken by the frantic tap of fingers on smartphone screens. I definitely still miss my phone, and will soon replace it, but not for now." Jordanian Saif H. Nasser, 18, echoes similar sentiments.

Nasser justified his reluctance to abandon his cell phone: "People reach out through the online world, I reach out through the online world; sometimes it's all what you can do to manage a line of communication with a certain someone. I need it and rely on it, and it's something I detest in myself, but it would also be faulty to say ‘we don't need it' because we do. The best I can do, if not completely abandon it for a few days, is compromise, such as calling someone to say ‘Happy Eid! I hope you have a lovely day." Ahmad S. Salama, 18, Egyptian, was more enthusiastic about spending phone-free time to stop technology getting in the way of other "lovely experiences".

Salama says he think it's perfectly possible.

"I might even do it this year, and by do it, I mean really do it, no furtive, guilty peeks at my Facebook inbox or my email. I've tried abandoning my phone and internet before but — naturally — I've always fallen back into its all-present embrace. Trite though it may be to put it like this, it was refreshingly liberating not to be committed to constantly looking at a screen. If I do — and now I'm really planning to — I'll make sure I take longer walks in the park, cycle more, and read outside while it's still early enough in the morning for next-to-nobody to be around. Oh, and pay attention more during conversation." For Dr Atef Obaid, business development manager at Horizon Energy, smartphones and internet have become a necessity to modern life. "Connectivity for energy, like many other industries and trades, is inescapable even during holidays. What is a holiday in the UAE may not so elsewhere." But Dr Obaid insists on kissing his phone goodnight so that his sleep is not disrupted. Also he turns the phone on silent during prayer time, especially on Fridays.

Fahad Mubarak Mohammad, an Emirati employee, feels it is near impossible to abandon his smartphones. He says he possesses eight smartphones, having four of them on him at a time. He dedicates one phone for his office, another for family, a third for his friends and a fourth for other "intimate purposes".

Mohammad Aref Al Saiari, who has three smartphones, agrees smartphones have become a must for modern life.

"Only, during my sleep time, I turn them on silent. But they are the first things I check on after I wake up in the morning." However, Abdullah Mazar Al Baloushi, an Emirati student, says he has experienced several phone-free desert safaris.

Salem Mohammad Al Shamsi, an employee at Etisalat, agreed and said he never carry a phone on him while on a desert trip.

"There is no good signal there anyway. So I enjoy quality phone-free time with my family and friends," he says.

(c) 2014 Al Nisr Publishing LLC . All rights reserved. Provided by, an company

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