I Lived Without My Phone for One Week

The sound that escaped my lips after I heard her came from a place of fear and astonishment deep inside of me: It wasn’t that far off from a mother orangutan mourning the loss of her child.

“The entire week?”

“That’s right. You’ll get them back at the end of the week.”

Ever since I got my first smartphone sophomore year of high school, the idea of giving up my precious handheld device seemed more and more impossible. I rely heavily on my iPhone to communicate with friends and family, prevent me from becoming hopelessly lost, expand my musical horizons (thanks, Spotify), and capture meaningful moments through the camera lens. Also, I may take the occasional selfie.

Like 73% of young adults with smartphones, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, I would also say that my phone is a distraction: gradually fueling my procrastination and resentment with each notification, Facebook tag, and Youtube video.

When I signed up for one of DePaul’s winter break service immersions, I realized part of the experience was to disconnect from technology to focus on the present. Our phones would be out of our hands for seven days. So, I pushed aside my FOMO and fear of my Snapstreaks breaking, and I accepted the challenge. One week isn’t so bad,” I thought.This will be good for me.”

 

I didn’t know what I was getting into. After the initial sadness of handing over my phone, Day 1 of No Technology was manageable. I experienced a momentary panic a few times when I went to reach for my phone and it wasn’t in my pocket, but I adjusted to the new feeling. On Day 2, I was appreciative for not having to bring a purse along to carry my phone when I left the house. I mentally noted my gratitude.

The most difficult part of my technology-free week was not being able to share special moments. Admittedly, it’s automatic that my first thought when witnessing something funny is often to whip out my camera on Snapchat. Similarly, I wasn’t able to unsee how aesthetically pleasing some things would have looked on my Instagram feed. (“If only I had my phone to take a picture of it!”) In these moments, I recognized my strength of appreciating beauty in everyday surroundings. Without my phone, I was able to fully cherish my eye for beauty.

 

Throughout the week, I had mixed feelings about not having my phone. The absence of my device pushed me to have more conversations in public instead of hiding behind a screen. On the other hand, I found myself becoming critical of strangers who seemed glued to their phones. Overall, this experience was an exercise in being attentive while continuing to be understanding: People are human. Having empathy is not just desirable, but essential for living life to its fullest.

In spite of my initial fears, I am grateful for the time I spent unplugged. Although I have since reconnected with my phone, I have held onto the lessons I learned without one. If given the chance, I highly recommend living phone-free.

Sources:

http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/chapter-two-usage-and-attitudes-toward-smartphones/