“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.” – Robert Tew
On March 7, 2014, I pulled the plug on my smartphone.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like having it; if anything, I liked having it too much.
My phone was an extension of myself. I couldn’t go anywhere without it.
At night I plugged it in on my nightstand when I went to bed, scrolling through Facebook one last time before tucking myself in. In the morning, I turned it on before my eyes were fully open.
I enjoyed having it until that fateful day when I realized that what had started as a useful tool had turned into an addiction.
Some people drink too much; I spent too much time scrolling aimlessly through my friends’ updates, taking pictures of my food instead of enjoying it, and consuming content instead of creating it.
When I realized how much it was controlling me, I made a conscious decision to give up the mindless Facebook scrolling while waiting for coffee, answering emails when I should be talking to my husband in the car, and skimming blog post after blog post when I could just enjoy being present.
I clicked the button to cancel my data plan and pulled my old flip-phone out of hiding.
That night I sat there, staring at my new phone, flipping aimlessly through the menu looking for something interesting, and asking myself whether I had made a mistake.
I expected some withdrawal, but I didn’t realize just how attached I had become to my “hand extension.”
When I was watching TV shows or movies and there was a boring part, I missed picking up the phone and checking out “what everyone else was doing.” Now I had to pay attention or find a way to occupy myself with my thoughts instead.
When I was waiting for the pump to finish at the gas station, my fingers were itching for something to scroll through. I had to pull out my Kindle and read something that took longer than 2 minutes or look around, actually noticing what’s going on..
When the conversation with my husband came to a halt in the car, I desperately wanted to have that phone in my hands to find something else to talk about or just to amuse myself. Instead, I had to pay more attention during our conversation so we could keep it going, or be content just sitting in silence together, enjoying the ride.
Yes, there are legitimate reasons why I’m potentially “worse off” without a smartphone.
When I visited New York City, I had to write out directions and ask people where an intersection was instead of pulling out my phone. But seeing how kind people in New York City can be when you reach out and communicate makes up for the somber anonymity of everyone “going about their businesses” in the big city.
When I drive, I have to pay attention to where I’m going – the “Google lady” isn’t there to warn me about a turn a quarter mile ahead of time. Last time I drove to the farm we pick up milk from, I actually noticed a sign that tells you exactly when to turn – one I hadn’t noticed in the entire year I had been driving there with the help of my phone (during which time I had repeatedly missed said turn – even with the Google lady’s help).
When my husband and I have a disagreement over an “important fact”, we have to wait until we get home to resolve it, use our imagination and arguments, or agree to disagree in order to move on. Sometimes we even forget to settle it. When I remember it a week later, I often realize just how little importance these arguments carry (and yet, they seem so important when you’re in the middle of them and trying to prove the other person wrong).
What I have gained from being free of my smartphone addiction has more than made up for the disadvantages of not having one.
I have welcomed silence into my life with open arms and am enjoying the increased productivity from not constantly having to fight with the temptation to check my phone while I’m trying to get something done.
I am allowing my thoughts to speak to me instead of my phone. Being fully present with myself has led to realizations and insights that I otherwise would have missed on.
I am connecting with others in a genuine way that isn’t all about me. Instead of always posting about what’s going on in my seemingly perfect life, I am connecting with my friends one-on-one, talking about the reality of our lives and being there for them from a place of authenticity.
As much as having a smartphone was comfortable, not having one is freeing on a much bigger level.
Beyond the pleasure of being able to forget about my phone and find it a week later with a full battery, I have rediscovered the profound freedom of being able to go outside and be completely disconnected. It feels like I am 100% myself – alone and independent, standing on my own two feet.
I had forgotten how good it can feel to be completely unplugged – to not be a slave to email, Instagram, or the latest happenings on Facebook. And to not have to make that decision every day or once in a while, but to have it already there – all I need to do is step out of the house.
Many people ask me if I miss my smartphone. The answer is: not anymore. Of course, for a while I operated in victim mode. I missed the scrolling, the sharing, the constantly being connected. But once I started offering different answers to the question of “What should I do now?” I learned that my phone was nothing more than a crutch to keep myself comfortable.
But staying comfortable no longer fits my vision of what I want my life to be. So I’m embracing my dumb phone and my unplugged life, and my silence and my thoughts, and going against the grain.
I’m letting myself enjoy a different kind of freedom.
I’m not asking that you give up your phone too, but if you could snap your fingers and create more freedom in your life, how would you do it?
Photo by Dave Lawler