Two Years Without a Cell Phone

It’s been two years since I’ve carried a cell phone.

I don’t say that to brag. Or gloat. 

I stopped carrying a smartphone because I had become addicted to it. 

Just waking up? Check the phone.

Eating dinner? Check the phone.

Watching a movie? Check the phone.

Shopping at Walmart? Check the phone.

At your child’s ballgame? Check the phone.

Having a conversation with your spouse? Check the phone.

That was me.

Checking email. Checking Twitter. Did anyone comment on my Facebook post? Did I get any likes on my Instagram photo? Did I get new followers?

It became an obsession.

I wasn’t alone.

Most studies say we check our phones from 50-75 times per day. Some of us spend five hours a day on our smartphones.

In stores. In restaurants. On sidewalks. In parks. At concerts. In waiting rooms. At the stoplight. While driving. 

It almost doesn’t matter anymore. Anywhere there are people doing something they are likely to be looking at a smartphone while doing it.

There is personal responsibility. You – and I – are responsible for our actions. 

But also realize that, when it comes to technology, the odds are stacked against you.

Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter want you to spend as much time using their app as possible. The more time you spend, the more ads you see, and the more money they make.

They hire “Persuasive Design Engineers” who are trained in the psychology of knowing how your mind works. They create badges, buzzers, likes, and other interface gee-gaws that give you that little dose of positive feedback that will keep you coming back.

They’ve been successful.

And our culture is the worse for it.

Attention spans are shorter. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a thing. Social media use is linked to increased depression. And suicide. Cyberbullying is on the rise.

So I got rid of my phone.

No, it wasn’t easy. At any brief lull in my day I’d reach for the my phone in order to do something to stave off a few seconds of potential boredom. The twitch was strong. 

Some quitters even talk about feeling “ghost buzzes” from their missing phones.

Two years later?

Yes, there are times it’s a hassle to be disconnected. I’ve shown up to canceled church events. If I’m going somewhere new I have to look up directions in advance. I can’t immediately Google for answers to questions that come up.  I’ve missed taking some photos.

But the upsides outweigh the downsides.  

I like not being so tied into social media. I don’t miss grabbing my phone to quick check a thing and suddenly realize that I’ve lost an hour. 

I read more. I write more by hand. I bought a watch.

I walk with my head up.

I’m more present in conversations. 

While I wish I could tell you that my life is entirely screen-free, it isn’t. 

MsBoyink still has a smartphone that we often use for driving directions, playing music, texting our kids, or  WhatsApping with our church.

And there are laptops. And a tablet. 

But there is still freedom in not having that shiny screen in my pocket all the time, trying to steal my attention from the world around me.

I’m not alone in shedding a phone.

Google “giving up smartphone” or “digital detox” and you’ll find a number of people making the same decision. Many of them work in technology. 

Maybe you’ve got the urge to unplug.

You can try it anytime. Just turn your phone off and leave it behind for a day.

Or if you need a bigger event to motivate you, March 6, 2020 is the next National Day of Unplugging. 

Let me know how it goes.