I Went on a 24-Hour Digital Diet & Regained Some Sanity Before School Started

After a summer of interning, traveling and ultimately spending an embarrassing amount of time staring into the unblinking eye of my cellphone, I realized I was overdue for a detox from my little friend. I know I’m not alone in this digital addiction because, according to research found in an article by Variety, Americans have difficulty not checking their phones once every 10 minutes! How many times have you found yourself picking up your phone 30 seconds after having put it down only to refresh Twitter again? Thanks to Apple’s trusty screen time tools, I’ve also faced the sad fact that in the last week alone, my personal screen time totaled 64 hours and eight minutes a week, which boils down to about nine hours per day. Imagine what I could do with all that time… I could drive cross country to California in half of it! (Seriously—I mapped it.) Aside from the time I’ve thrown away, it’s incredibly draining to stare at a screen all day long and I’ve even noticed myself getting headaches as I’ve spent more time on my phone. 

(Courtesy: Tawnie Simpson) 

The point is, I needed a digital detox. In a world that functions heavily on instantaneous notification and communication, I quickly determined that cutting it out cold turkey just wasn’t going to fly. So, after a quick Google search I found a phone cleanse crafted by Xfinity Mobile that functions kind of like a crash diet of sorts. Each day there’s a new challenge to help you curb your worst phone-related habits. For example, on day one you’re supposed to delete ten apps from your phone. Other challenges in the phone diet include switching your phone’s display to grayscale, turning off your notifications, clearing five gigabytes of media, only checking your phone once every 60 minutes, placing your phone completely out of reach while sleeping and clearing your home screen of all obvious distractions. 

I, being a total overachiever, decided to cram that all into a single day starting with deleting ten apps from my phone. This was much more difficult than expected because what if I decided to actually use my water-tracking app or the photo editing app that I haven’t used in a month? Spoiler alert: I deleted both and I’m better for it! Xfinity Mobile even notes on their cleanse website that most people only utilize nine apps a day anyway. 

With the deletion of apps came the challenge of going gray for a day, which probably helped kick my phone habits the most. With a gray screen, I was much less tempted to continue an endless scroll through Instagram. Without vibrant colors to pique my interest, the appeal of pictures was instantly muted in my mind’s eye. I slowly realized throughout the day that when I was tempted to check my phone, I was more purposeful in what I chose to check—my texts or emails for example, since my notifications were shut off. Additionally, once I cleared my home screen of everything but my iMessage, Safari, email, weather and health apps, I was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of it. By organizing my apps and keeping them out of my direct view, I was able to unlock my phone and accomplish specific tasks instead of accidentally getting wound up in Twitter threads or Snapchat stories. 

(Courtesy: Tawnie Simpson)

Next, I decided to tackle what Xfinity rightfully calls the “war on storage” by freeing up five gigabytes on my phone. Truth be told, I’m a photo-hoarding packrat and I failed miserably at this challenge. I only rid my phone of about three gigs, but I did find a way to free up space without deleting any memories. Under “phone storage” there’s an option to “review large attachments” found in your messages, meaning you can delete gifs, pictures and videos that are taking up space within your messages! With more space on my phone, I found just a smidge of peace in knowing the next time I take a picture I won’t be greeted with a “low storage” alert. 

When it came time to head to bed and place my phone out of reach, I wasn’t feeling the familiar separation anxiety that I would’ve once felt. Though slightly starved for some form of easy entertainment, I was content with my phone usage for the day. If my goal was to accomplish less screen time overall, I’m not sure if I’ve reached it. I haven’t been cured of my phone addiction overnight, but this cleanse is something I’m definitely going to try to keep up for my own sanity. It’s not digital deprivation, but more like teaching yourself to enjoy your phone in moderation. Now that I’ve forced myself to think about these habits, maybe I can kick one or two.