To paraphrase Robert Palmer, I might as well face it. I’m addicted to my phone.
I tried to give up using my phone for a week and it really didn’t work out.
I’m an intern on the Careers team at Business Insider. I’d like to tell you that I’m dependent on technology because I’m always scouring the web for scoops and article ideas. But the reality is, I’m just easily distracted and I enjoy listening to music as I walk around.
I wasn’t always this way. I had a sweet “Star Trek” flip phone throughout high school. It was wonderfully dysfunctional. You couldn’t use it to access the internet. It couldn’t really receive photos. When I joined the student newspaper, I would record interviews in Garageband on my laptop. Heaven help the person who tried to add me into a group chat.
Once I got an iPhone toward the end of my freshman year of college, I never looked back.
Still I thought it might be interesting to see if I would be able to give up my phone for a week, now that I’ve become so dependent on it. I figured that laying off the technology for a while might make me less distraction-prone.
To clarify: I was able to make work and emergency calls. But I had to put all other phone functions on the back burner.
I thought it would be easy. Before this, I didn’t really consider myself to be someone that’s glued to her phone. However, due to circumstances, my technological dependence, and my bad memory, I turned out to be a less than ideal subject for the experiment.
Here’s a breakdown of my phone-less (sort of) week:
The first day of the no-phone experiment was a total cakewalk. I'd spent the weekend at the beach with my extended family. The day mostly consisted of rushing through my beach read and then driving back home to Westchester County. My phone sat at the bottom of my backpack the entire time, forgotten.
I figured the rest of the week would be like this -- because I'm chill and not at all dependent on technology.
Obviously, I was totally wrong.
It became clear on Monday that the halcyon days of the weekend were over.
The trouble started when I had to restrain myself from looking up some sweet Alexander Hamilton fun facts on my iPhone first thing in the morning (that day, July 11, was the 212th anniversary of his death).
Things got worse once I got to work. Sitting down at my desk, I remembered that I hadn't posted anything on social media for my mum's birthday. After desperately trying to message my sister on Facebook to get some pics (she never checks her Facebook), I gave up and texted my other, more technology-savvy sister for assistance.
I didn't actually use my phone to reach out to her -- I used the Messages app on my desktop. It still felt like cheating.
By Tuesday, I knew when that hotline bling ... that it was going to drive me crazy because I couldn't use my phone.
On the third day, I accidentally grabbed my phone and typed in my passcode three times during work. I wasn't trying to cheat. I wasn't even bored. It's just such an ingrained habit, the action was almost mechanical.
That night, I watched 'Jeopardy!' (I lead a wild and dangerous life).
It was pretty exciting, because the final question was on Hamilton. I wasn't able to look up interesting facts about the different categories, though. So that was a bit of a nightmare. Fun facts are my life's blood.
Wednesday's child is full of woe -- and, fittingly, the day got off to an inauspicious start.
I saw a high school classmate on the train to work. Under normal circumstances, I'd be able to slip on my headphones, crank up some ABBA, and pretend to ignore them.
Without the shield of my phone, I had to devise another means of avoiding conversation. So I slid on my sunglasses (even though we were about to go into a dark tunnel), slouched in my seat, and pretended not to see them wave. I'm so friendly.
I realised that I really rely on my phone to block out other people. That sounds bad, but who really wants to be open and ready to engage with others on public transit?
Normally, my commute consists of spacing out and listening to Top 40 hits from the 70s and 80s. On Thursday, however, I finally finished reading my book on the morning train ride into the city ('Henry Garnet and the Gunpowder Plot': 10/10 would recommend).
The fact that this experiment allowed me to brush up on my knowledge of the super-fascinating Gunpowder Plot was a big win for me, if only because my conversational style tends to fluctuate between 'lurking silently' and 'bombarding unsuspecting victims with useless historical trivia.'
I will say, the joy of reading notwithstanding, giving up my Spotify was the hardest part of the experiment. I like to listen to music when I travel and walk around. I get pretty antsy without it.
At certain points, I tried cheating by listening to my iTunes account on my Macbook on the train. It wasn't the same. Long story short, I lost my entire library when my computer crashed a few years ago, except for all the songs that just happened to be on my middle school-era iPod Shuffle. So my current iTunes account is mostly Coldplay, Fall Out Boy, Cascada, and even, dare I say it, more than one Nickelback song. Middle school was a rough time -- and being forced to return to those days (in a musical sense, at least) wasn't ideal.
So, I kept on telling myself that I needed to go out and buy a disposable camera. I even marked the task down on my calendar for Friday.
You see, in college, I was constantly wandering Colonial Williamsburg taking photos (and then subsequently posting them on Instagram with an obnoxious amount of hashtags).
But my lack of a camera turned out to not be a huge issue for me during this experiment. My muse is gone, I guess.
After neglecting to pick up a disposable camera at CVS, I met up with a friend who's not from New York. I don't get out much, and she doesn't have a smart phone, so we struggled a bit to pick a restaurant (sans Yelp) and get there (sans Apple maps).
And then when we were hanging out, we couldn't document the grand occasion with selfies for Instagram or Snapchat. So the real question is, did it even happen?
Saturday was actually pretty chill. I wasn't desperate to check my phone, for the most part. I guess working and commuting are the activities that really exacerbate my need for distraction.
The only drawback to the day was the fact that my sister sent me a Snapchat video of my granddad randomly bursting into 'Dublin in the Rare Old Times' outside our public library. I was dying to see it, but I restrained myself.
Also, we watched the glorious 'Camp Rock 2' that night (such a vibrant life that I lead). I was very tempted to live-Snap that, but I resisted.
This experiment really made me realise how 'Type A' I am, in certain ways. I'm not one of those mystifying people that can let my inbox alone until I have thousands of unopened emails. Those red dots and unread notifications hurt my soul.
The good news was I didn't even have that many notifications by the end of the challenge. My Snapchats piled up, but I checked my email, Twitter, and Facebook on my computer and had unwittingly logged off my Instagram account before embarking on this adventure (so I got zero notifications about all the 'Game of Thrones' memes my friend sent me).
So it wasn't that bad, as far as unread stuff went.
Still, this made me realise that I am probably a bit too trigger-happy about clicking on and responding to things. Will this realisation change my behaviour going forward? Probably not.
I'm honestly not too worried that I wasn't able to complete this challenge. Phones make life easier! At the same time, going forward, I'll try to rely on my phone less and devote more time to reading.
Here are my top four takeaways from this challenge:
1. Taking pictures was the easiest thing to give up.
2. For the first few days, I kept catching myself constantly reaching for my phone -- the actual reflex is really hard to break.
3.The hardest part of the experiment was giving up music.
4. Phones are great and I'm very glad I have mine back!
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