Why I Ditched My Phone
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a deep thinker. For the past month or so I’ve been struggling with social media and whether it’s good or bad for us. Is always being connected a good thing? Is boredom really a better alternative to mindless scrolling? I’ve gone back and forth on these questions as well as many others that deal with how much we use our smart phones in this day and age. If you’re a fan of the blog you’ve already seen me tackle this issue head on with my piece “Don’t Let Your Phone Control Your Life”.
This week there was a moment that made me decide to finally address my social media and smartphone use. Tuesday night I went to the Nationals/Cubs game with a good friend of mine. We had fun, caught up on our new jobs, and watched the Nationals beat the Cubs. Yet, I had this huge urge to post an Instagram picture showing that I was at the game. Everything was going great but for some reason I felt the need to take a picture and show everyone that I was there. This made me start to think of why we get that urge to let everyone know what we’re doing. We’re documenting or sharing every party, event, and moment in our life on social media. It brought me back to the weekend before when I was in Ocean City, New Jersey and we saw dolphins in the water. I told my friend he should have brought his camera and he said he was living in the moment. That stuck with me because I know that nobody would have cared about the dolphins except the people on that boat, but I still had this urge that I should be recording it.
This brought me to Wednesday when I spent hours researching the psychological reasoning behind this urge and whether it was good or bad for us. I came across a life-changing article in the New York Times about a man who worked in media and was constantly on the internet and his phone (I Used to be a Human Being). His smartphone addiction led the demise of his personal life and health. With this he decided he could either live as a voice online, or in reality. He decided to rejoin reality by doing a meditation retreat to “re-wire” his brain.
So are the bonds we used to form in our everyday interactions — the nods and pleasantries of neighbors, the daily facial recognition in the mall or the street. Here too the allure of virtual interaction has helped decimate the space for actual community. When we enter a coffee shop in which everyone is engrossed in their private online worlds, we respond by creating one of our own. When someone next to you answers the phone and starts talking loudly as if you didn’t exist, you realize that, in her private zone, you don’t. And slowly, the whole concept of a public space — where we meet and engage and learn from our fellow citizens — evaporates. Turkle describes one of the many small consequences in an American city: “Kara, in her 50s, feels that life in her hometown of Portland, Maine, has emptied out: ‘Sometimes I walk down the street, and I’m the only person not plugged in … No one is where they are. They’re talking to someone miles away. I miss them.’ ”
This research also led me to a popular video I previously hadn’t seen before “I Forgot My Phone”
This video may be an exaggeration but we can all relate, this is our new reality.
Scared, confused, worried, I don’t know what the best word to describe my state of mind was after doing this research, but I do know I wanted to try a day without my device. Our phones are a part of our life now, we need them, and I’m not denying this. They can be wonderful devices that connect families and friends while saving us time and money by having all our tools in one space. I was just a little worried that they are taking a bit of our soul and what makes us human, making us forget the value of human interaction. I don’t think I want to eat family dinners with everyone on their phone, or substitute phone interactions for actually meeting up.
To see where I stood in this addiction and just how much my phone takes up of my day I challenged myself to go a day without it. I wanted to see when it helped me not to have it and when I missed it most, and how I can alter the rest of my days to fit this new knowledge. I highly recommend everyone reading this to take the challenge, it doesn’t have to change your life, it’s just a cool thing to try to see how addicted you are.
Being with our phones at all times means we’re always reachable. Knowing this, I made sure I told my mom I was doing the challenge so she wouldn’t report me missing (However I forgot to tell my friend Jake who consequently thought I died). I also quickly realized how going on a day without my phone was actually impossible. I had no other way to wake up on time for work. I decided to put it in airplane mode so I couldn’t use the internet or get texts but still use the alarm.
When I first woke it felt like second nature to check what I missed out on while I was asleep but I stayed true to the challenge, turned off my alarm, and then my phone.
The morning was when not having my phone was most advantageous. I recently got my hours switched so now I have an hour and a half until I have to leave for work. The past few days this meant more time on social media and reading articles that popped up on my timeline while I wait until 8:30. However, with no phone I spent that time finish a book I bought last week. I always tell myself that with work, working out, and writing, I have no time to read. It turns out I have plenty of time to read I just spend it on social media. It was also refreshing to not consume an enormous amount of content as soon as I woke up. After eating breakfast and an hour of reading it was off to work.
The commute is usually when I’ll throw on the latest Bill Simmons podcast and catch up on sports news while I deal with DC traffic. This time I wasn’t able to listen to my podcast so I had more energy to spend hating every other driver on the road. I’ll definitely continue my podcast routine after this experience.
Ideally I shouldn’t miss my phone at all during work. On a good day I’ll have a ton of outreach to do and meetings to attend to keep me busy until I leave. For the most part this was true, the morning was full of task I had to get done quickly so I didn’t even think to check my phone.
During lunch is usually when I’ll catch up on NBA Twitter and hit up my friends to see how their day is going. There are occasional times at work when I’ll get distracted by something that’s happening on my phone so it was nice to know I couldn’t even check it while I was in the office. It’s a good tool to have to connect with my friends when things are slow, I don’t think it would make sense to not have it completely the 40 hours I’m at work a week. I enjoyed staying focused more but I also felt like I was missing out on some group chats and news that’s breaking. Nothing life changing during these 8 hours.
At night was when I started to miss being connected. I have 2 hours of being home alone before I leave for the gym which usually doesn’t feel lonely because I’m on my phone. Being without my phone for 10-12 hours really made me feel like I was missing out on something. I was able to sit down and write with no distractions which was a plus, but I definitely started to feel lonely.
The gym was similar to my car ride to work, definitely would not want to do it without music playing. I was able to focus on my lifts more and spend less time scrolling between sets, something I’ll keep in mind for the future.
The most conflicting time I spent without my phone was the hours before bed. Usually between 9-11 is when I’m constantly on my phone texting groups and scrolling through Twitter. At this point in the day I had already spent 8 hours at work, an hour at the gym, read for an hour, and wrote for an hour. Technically going without my phone the last few hours before bed could make me more productive but there were diminishing returns. I was tired of working and being disconnected. Using my phone before bed is how I wind down and catch up with friends. I had a strong urge to turn on my phone and see what I’ve missed.
Overall, I highly recommend spending a day without your phone. I think the criticisms of phone usage is highly overblown in most cases. But, a day without my phone showed me when I was more productive without it, and when it didn’t matter if I used it. If you spend a day without yours you’ll be apply similar knowledge to your days. Here’s the main things I learned from this day:
- My morning was more productive without my phone, I was able to read a book instead of catching up on social media. I’ll continue to not check it until I’m about to head to work
- When there is actual work to be done, your phone should be off. Knowing I couldn’t check it was enough to keep me productive. If it was on I know I would do quick checks that would distract me
- When you’re alone or bored, you should not feel ashamed using your phone
- In the presence of friends and family, you should not be checking your phone. Remember these human interactions are more important than anything that’s happening on your iPhone
- Think deeper about why you post pictures of everything you do, try to be in moment more
As a side note, I’d love it if some of you took the challenge! To motivate you and others, if you spend a day without your phone I’d love to hear what your takeaways were and what you learned about your day. I’ll update this post with your story if you let me know how it goes. Shoot me a text or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan on doing it.
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