Smartphones. They are an incredibly powerful tool, and their use has become very widespread in the developed world, enhancing our lives in many ways. However, I also believe they are becoming a growing addiction that is causing many people to live their lives in constant states of distraction and miss out on the very act of living. Psychology Today has coined this addiction “Nomophobia” (Fear of being without a Smartphone), and say it affects 40% of the population.
When I am out walking around it is far too common to see people moving about their day zombie like, head down, staring at their handheld supercomputer, instead of looking around and taking in the world around them. Also, out in restaurants or bars or other social settings, what do you see? People interacting with the world through their devices instead of their mouths and ears. I don’t know about you, but don’t think that is any way to live.
Let me be clear, I am not a technology bashing Luddite advocating the removal of all cell phones from society. I love my iPhone and the instant access it gives me to information and those close to me. However, I do firmly believe that the pendulum of smartphone use has swung too far to one side and needs to be rebalanced. There are far too many people now living their lives through the screen of their iPhone, which is why I have decided to give mine up for a month.
Through this month’s challenge I intend to show that life goes on just fine without a smartphone constantly in my hand or pocket. In fact, I believe that by putting my phone away for a month and being more present in each moment, I will find myself enjoying the simple act of living more. Our parents, grandparents, and everyone before them did it for all of their lives, why can’t I do it for one month?
Some people will probably think I am only hurting myself by doing this challenge, but I would disagree. I am not as bad as many when it comes to having my phone in my hand 24/7, but it is still a constant distraction in my life. In January I texted with 28 different people, maybe it would have been nice to have a conversation with a few of those people instead? Also, the constant dings, pings and rings are a continual interruption taking my focus away from the present moment.
The basic premise of the challenge is this: For the month of February, I am going to treat my iPhone as a landline. I will have data turned off for the whole month, and although I will carry it around with me in case of emergencies, I will not answer unless I am at home. Some more specific rules:
- No texting, I will return any text received with a call, or with a message asking the person to call me.
- No answering calls or checking voicemails unless I am at home. If people really need to get a hold of me during the day, I have a phone on the desk in my office at work.
- No playing games, reading news or using other apps on my phone. I think this one will have the biggest impact on me, as I have a few productivity apps that help me run my life and keep things organized.
There are a couple of small exceptions:
- I have a blackberry for work, which I actually do not use very much outside of work, and leave it at home on evenings and weekends anyways. I will continue to use it as required, but not excessively and only for business, not as a replacement for my personal iPhone.
- I am going to Whitefish for a ski weekend & bachelor party in a few weeks. I will use my phone 1-2 times per day during that trip to check in with Megan and let her know I am ok.
Regularly texting, checking emails, twitter and the news on my phone are all habits of mine, and I think I will have to stop myself multiple times per day from reaching for my phone for the first week or so. However, I do expect to be able to complete this challenge without too much pain.
As mentioned above, the worry I have is that I might miss out on a task or event I have scheduled in my calendar or to-do list, which are apps on my phone. However, to counter this I will just have to refer to my written weekly plans, or check my calendar or to-do lists when on the computer.
This challenge is going to be tough for me for sure, but I also think it might be a little tough for some of those close to me. Instead of firing off a text, people will have to actually phone and talk to me, what a concept!
Ultimately, I have zero need to be connected to the world 24/7 or even most of the time per day. I am home a good portion of the time, and when I am out, I am ok with not being interrupted or distracted. I expect I will enjoy the calm and quiet that turning off my smartphone for the month will bring. Let’s see how it goes!