What I learnt from going phone-free for a week
I reviewed my journal notes from the time I forgot to pack my phone charger.
I thought I would share an entry from my journal of a time I unintentionally went without my phone for a week. The experience was not as drastic as expected, but it made me realise my dependency on my phone. It came at the same time I chose not to wear my Apple Watch. The event has changed my relationship with my phone. Anyway, here is the journal entry I roughly scribbled down on a sheet of paper:
Journal — 7th June 2023 ‘Smartphone realisation’
In the rush to hit the road, I left a small bunch of items on my kitchen island. These were essential items for the journey and the holiday itself. Two iPhone chargers, a Kindle Paperwhite, a bullet journal and my iPad. I say these are essential. However, in reality, these are luxury items to make a holiday convenient.
On my arrival at the holiday site, I soon realised the error of my ways when I went to charge up my iPad. Oh, dear. A mad three minutes of scrambling around to come to the realisation I had left the items behind. It will be a long week, I told myself.
I tried to get reception by walking to the opposite of the holiday resort, holding my hand out with my iPhone 12 in-hand like a navigator would with a compass.
It was quite a tragic moment because I was prioritising phone signal over quality family time. I’m more conscious and intentional with my phone usage and social situations than I have ever been in the past. There on the spot, I decided not to bother with my phone. I sent out a brief message on Twitter about my choice and switched my phone off immediately. The plan was to have a week away from my Apple Watch, not my phone.
What made the situation worse was not having my bullet journal to write in and Kindle. I had nothing to record my thoughts and ideas in.
The car had a cheap cable in for emergencies, so it was agreed that my son and wife could take turns when we went driving on our days out. I ended up using the car’s built in Sat Nav.
On the Saturday, I realised certain key information was in a list I had made in my Twos app, so switched my phone back on, recorded the information and switched the phone off again. However, I had three notification emails about Mastodon — new followers. I pressed the follow back, but the webpage would not load because the internet access was next to none. There was absolutely no point to using my phone on holiday. I share this moment because it highlights the dependence and unconscious actions we take with our phones.
Living without the smart capabilities isn’t a new thing to me. In 2018 to late 2019, I decided to use a feature phone (dumb phone), which helped me break the habit of using a phone as a pacifier. I used a Nokia 8810 with a £6 per month SIM card. The experience was interesting and frustrating at the same time. I learnt how to navigate life in a world built for a smartphone. I’m still not sure if people have become lazy, or they are utilising the convenience of smart capabilities. Eventually, the cons of using a feature phone were too much for me to deal with, as my job and home life were noticeably impaired with my lifestyle choice. I decided to go with a smartphone and use it selectively, using a minimalist launcher and the essential apps needed to get by.
My experience of not having my phone for the week was not as bad as I anticipated. It would have been a different story if it weren’t for my Sat Nav. When I switched to a ‘dumb’ phone, I remember travel was a huge issue for me. The amount of manual preparation took a lot of time, taking me away from other tasks I should have been doing.
Although smartphones can be distracting (if used as a pacifier), they have an ability to simply our lives. I know this from experience. I have a sense of gratitude towards having a smartphone, whereas others, may feel they are a burden. Smartphones should be treated like anything else in their lives — used in moderation and with intention.
What I got from the experience was quality time with my family. Instead of glancing at a screen for most of the day, I would look up, be aware of my surroundings, and observe the surrounding beauty. There were electronic devices to take me away from what I had come on holiday for. That was to simply spend time with my family. For that reason, the holiday was one of my fondest memories I will ever have.
Question — Do you have any experience of ditching your smartphone for intentional living?