David McWilliams: Third-level education is yesterday’s idea

 Students checking the CAO first round offers. The great Irish CAO hysteria may be misplaced given the ongoing democratisation of knowledge. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

It’s a month since I binned my incessantly needy smartphone on January 1st. It is much less difficult than I imagined and the result has been a revelation. Try it and your days will seem longer, books are more appealing, you’ll be far less distracted, more patient and less irritable.

An unexpected aspect of being free of the smartphone is that other people’s small talk is more interesting. Because you don’t know what’s going on in the world on a minute-by-minute basis, you are constantly surprised by the chat of people that you bump into and even old friends.

When a person excitedly enquires, “Did you hear what yer man said today on Twitter?” you are all ears because you have no idea what Donald Trump tweeted a minute ago about “shitholes” or immigrants or the American Dream. You don’t know because the little thing in your pocket hasn’t beeped to update you on the latest presidential outrage.

Quickly, you realise that you don’t care what Trump tweeted this morning, that you’re not fazed by the latest twist in the Brexit saga, that your life is not enhanced by knowing that Taylor Swift Croke Park tickets sold out or that Manchester City spent £100 million on some French teenage soccer sensation.

Your mind is cleared of lots of clutter.

Daily life without constant emails, Twitter feeds, Facebook updates and Instagram photos is a blessed relief. It feels like you are back in control of your own time and not constantly being tugged by some inanimate force at all times of day and night.

Back in time

Giving up the smartphone is not for everyone, and there are obviously degrees of addiction. Maybe it’s an age thing, but for someone who led most of his adult life without being compulsively interrupted by an algorithm, it has been surprisingly easy to step back in time.

For the generation described as “digital natives”, it may be more difficult, but for those of us who remember exactly where they were when Dave O’Leary sent the Romanian keeper the wrong way, binning the latest device is no big deal.