Airplane Mode

image of smart phone

Airplane Mode

Anyone who has ever flown on a commercial flight has heard the following announcement.

At this time, make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and that your seat belt is fastened correctly. Your portable electronic devices must also be set to “airplane mode” until an announcement is made on arrival. Thank you.”

If not for this announcement, I would not have even been aware of the airplane mode. Most of the time, when I fly, I just turn off my phone before takeoff instead of choosing airplane mode in my settings.

Recently, however, I have rediscovered airplane mode as we enter month ten of the COVID-19 Pandemic. With many of us either working from home or just being homebound, we have turned to our devices for information, communication, and to fight boredom. Many of us spend more and more time on our devices doing Zoom calls, E-mail, or WhatsApp, surfing the net, taking classes, gaming, and social media.

While the above list is not exhaustive, we are all doing any, some, or all of the above from my experience. While these activities connect us to people and fill our time, they remove us from the people immediately around us and take us out of the proverbial moment.  For this reason, I have begun to think about the value of being in “airplane mode” even when we are not on an airplane.

My wife and I recently arranged a date to meet one of my daughters during her lunch break from teaching. She works at an elementary school on Kibbutz Maagan Michael, and she suggested we have a picnic lunch and then go for a stroll on the beach (Maagan Michael is on the Mediterranean). I had never been to this beach and was pleasantly surprised to discover a beautiful, clean, sparsely populated corner of Israel. Before we sat down for lunch, I decided to put my phone on airplane mode so as to not be interrupted as we ate, talked, and walked. I found myself enjoying nature, the companionship, and the conversation much more than usual.

Somehow by disconnecting from my device, I was able to enjoy the present much more. Driving home in the car from a different daughter’s house, I decided to switch on airplane mode again while talking with my wife on the way home. Making this choice meant I would miss the latest WhatsApp message from my friends and family, not be aware of breaking news and miss a phone call or two. However, instead of feeling I was missing something; I did not miss the constant distractions and interruptions. I was being present and connected to my wife who generously assumes the role of driver on all of our inter-city outings and duly notes that in our car time together, I am very much connected to my phone apps.

For me, switching on airplane mode does trigger feelings of “fear of missing out” (FOMO), but I see there is much to gain. Perhaps one of the positives of COVID-19 will make us realize that we have missed many things by spending so much time on our devices and that we may have much to gain by flicking the switch to airplane mode.

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