Is a stolen phone = a lost identity?

woman on mobile phone

Oh the memories of when we were together

Hey blogger! Are you addicted to your mobile phone? NO? Are you sure? The Family Adventure Project’s Kirstie Pelling believed her handset was just something that allowed her to work in coffee shops. Until it was stolen. And she realised it had actually become an extension of herself…

A mobile phone is pretty important to a blogger, I think you’d agree. And if you don’t, then you obviously haven’t discovered Instagram yet. But when my bag was swiped while I attended a social media conference abroad, I realized how much of a crutch my phone is, both emotionally and practically. Read on, and see if you recognise yourself…

A stolen identity

The events as they unfold: I discover my bag is gone in a bar in the early hours of the morning. I am pretty distraught as I am now without money, camera and more importantly, communication. The security guard won’t let me use his phone. Another blogger has lost her handbag, wallet, and work visa. But she is still in possession of her mobile. I feel bad begging her for it to call home. But it’s my only option, and I keep it short as I know I am adding to her distress.

A compromised business

By taking my eye off the ball, or more accurately my bag, I have potentially damaged my business. The missing phone means all our social media accounts are compromised, along with those of my clients. I need to change multiple passwords but have no phone to do it.

A lonely soul

The club call me a taxi. But the name and address of the hotel was in my phone. We circle the city twice until we find it. And then the long night begins. My budget hotel won’t let me make a foreign call and I really want reassurance from my husband. I want to Google the area to see if there’s been a recent crime wave.  And weirdly, I want to check my Instagram account for little orange hearts. I realise I have become hooked on the regular displays that bolster my self-esteem. Tonight I need some self esteem but no one loves me and I am forced to watch graveyard TV until daylight. It is a long time since I have watched TV.

A missing link

I arrive early at the conference to contact police, insurance companies and my mobile phone provider. But I need to borrow a phone. There are 600 bloggers at the conference. Every one of them has a phone. Every one of them is very attached to their phone. Once the sessions start, they are live tweeting, checking e-mails, or watching the conference hashtag. I wait for a coffee break.

A ripped out heart

Over coffee and cookies I ask a stranger to rip out her heart and hand it to me. Sorry, that’s a typo.  I ask a blogger if I can borrow her phone. But of course her phone is her heart. Mine was too and I have given it away. So much more than a social media device; it was an emotionally charged spaghetti junction of numbers, words and pictures. I have lost my children; carelessly discarding my son starting school, my daughter blowing out eight candles on a cake. I have thrown away my thoughts, in the form of ‘To Do’ lists and casual notes to self. Have I given away myself? I pinch my leg to check I’m still here.

A boring queue

I am physically present at the conference but emotionally cut off. Everyone is arranging and keeping appointments by text. I have no contact names or numbers, I can’t find anyone because the venue is so big and my diary was in my phone. Even going to the loo is a lonely affair. I didn’t realise how often I checked my Facebook account in queues. I didn’t realise how much e-mails kept me informed about who I am.

A social leper

I am a taboo; someone who can’t keep hold of her life. This is magnified when the police arrive in full uniform. Are the other delegates tweeting the news while pretending not to look? Or am I now paranoid? I ask another stranger if I can call airport parking to tell them I’ve lost my ticket. “You won’t lose it will you?” jokes the owner. She is not joking.

A lost voice

I retreat to the airport and sit there for four hours. It’s a quiet departure lounge. More like a library. When did that happen? When did we stop speaking to each other in public places in favour of pushing buttons and swiping screens? I don’t feel I’ve lost my phone. I feel I’ve lost my voice.

I want to tell someone about it, but I can’t. Because I don’t have their number. Ironically I need to get home so I can reconnect with the outside world. A fragile world, gone in the swipe of a handbag.

Social media it seems, is only social when you are in possession of a handset.

You can catch up with Kirstie via her newly acquired new handset via Twitter on @familyonabike.

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About Jennifer Howze

Jennifer Howze is the Creative Director and co-founder of BritMums. She blogs about family travel at, tweets at @JHowze and Instagrams at @JHowze. Previously, she wrote the Alpha Mummy blog at The Times and as a journalist has contributed to The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, Budget Travel,, Allure, SELF and Premiere, among others. She won The Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for a health article in Seventeen magazine.


  1. 21 November 2013 / 16:12

    Oh completely! I stupidly dropped my phone down the loo recently and for 2 days while it dried out I was in total limbo.Plus all those photos you didn’t upload all gone 🙁