I dropped my phone on the floor for the thousandth time… and for the last time.
For one week, I was free.
The first time I took a drive without my phone, it felt weird, like my seat-belt was unfastened or that I left my wallet at home. I cannot tell you how much of an emancipating experience this has been. When I was alone, I really was alone. When I went out, I really was out. I went to the library/study hall and learned for two and a half uninterrupted hours – there is no comparison between concentrating for two and a half hours and reading for 150 one-minute blocks or even 15 ten-minute blocks (depending on how often you need to look at your phone) your brain needs time to immerse enough to really concentrate.
The world kept turning, ballistic missiles did not hit Hawai. It felt like the 1990’s again.
A replacement will arrive in the mail. A spiffy, little flip phone. While I’m excited to have one again, I’ll also miss not answering calls, checking voicemail or texts. I liked not being interrupted, I liked knowing that things would sort themselves out even if it meant I had to make a second trip to the grocery store or had to call someone later.
People don’t even use their phones as phones anymore, it’s what you pull out when you are on the subway, waiting on line or four feet away from another person you should be talking to at the dinner table. Making phone calls on a smartphone is a distant third or fourth behind all the other things they can now do.
When was the last time a message or call was so urgent that you had to drop everything to respond? Most people use their phones more than two and half hours a day, on non-urgent matters. That’s time you can spend a better way.
Try it. Take a phone cleanse. Go a week without using your phone. On the other side of the initial withdraw and “fomo”, you’ll start seeing the world differently. Life will slow down, your mind will clear, you’ll see people immersed in their phone and wonder if that’s how you look (it is), you might accomplish more and most of all you’ll prove to yourself that you are not owned by technology.
Here’s a powerful excerpt from ” The Screwtape Letters”, a short book about the art of distraction ( the book is actually more immersive than that but that’s an ok jumping-off point).
The book was written in the 1950’s, but nails the human condition aptly-
“…you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room…
…All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”.
…And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind…in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.
…It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…”
Being tech-free is no guarantee for a more productive, happier life. we have always had a penchant for distraction.
If we are brave enough to give our phones a rest and experience life differently, perhaps we’ll tap into some dormant potential, a freedom, an urge to break back into reality and maybe stay there for a while.