I knew that people would think that giving up my phone for a week was a bit crazy, but on the Richter scale of astonishment I caused an earth-shattering 10. It was like the idea of not having a mobile phone for one week was the most absurd thing I’d ever come up with (bear in mind that in the previous week I’d also said I’m not buying clothes for a year – this is what we’re working with). People were mortified: how would people call me? What if someone needed to get in touch? It’s like we’ve forgotten that there was a time – somewhere between the dinosaurs and now – when there were no mobile phones and we somehow all managed to survive and function perfectly well. Remember when you’d go out for a meal and it’d just be you and the person you were with? You didn’t need to check in with the whole world and tell them what an amazing time you were having. Yeah, it’s good to share. I like seeing what my friends have been doing. But could I not talk to them? I was looking forward to finding out what #1WeekWithout my mobile would look like.
It was a bit strange at first. It’s like you’ve had a kitten that’s been following you around everywhere and now it’s no longer there. When I woke in the night, the familiar flashing, telling me that someone was thinking about me, wasn’t there. When I didn’t know something and would normally reach for my mobile to see the answer straight away, I couldn’t. When I thought of something I wanted to share with someone, it had to wait (probably a good thing in some cases!). I had to arrange exactly where and when to meet people. I had to use an old-school dictaphone. I had no idea what the time was for most of the day. It was great!
One idea behind giving it up was that I thought I’d have more time. At first, I wasn’t sure whether this was true: I seemed to have to spend a whole chunk of time going through my emails and the notifications on social media on my computer rather than doing it throughout the day. But because I had to dedicate a block of time to it, the interactions that I had seemed more meaningful, more intentional. I’m not just squeezing a quick message in in between doing a million other things. I’m dedicating time to them. I’m specifically choosing that that’s what I’m focusing on. And I think that I did save time overall too. The days seemed longer. I think that I was on my mobile a lot just for something to do, so I’ve been doing other stuff instead. I even started a jigsaw puzzle. Who has time to do that?!
I haven’t missed the beeps. I’m going to turn the notifications off for just about everything and check on stuff when that can be my focus. I’m getting rid of Facebook Messenger completely. At night, I’ll turn my phone off from 8 pm. I was hoping that not being on my phone straight before bed would help with sleep. It didn’t, but it’s still nice to have some time to yourself before dozing off.
At the start of the week, I was really looking forward to when I could turn my phone back on. But the week’s now well and truly up and I still haven’t looked at my phone. It’s great that people care and want to contact me. I truly am grateful for that. But this week has changed things.
I’ve remembered how nice it is to receive a letter. Is it not so much better than a text? And, this week, because I’ve not been able to message people to say thank you or congratulations, I’ve sent them cards instead. The same words will be in it, but it just seems so much more personal, more intentional. Texting isn’t the same as speaking to someone – Mum’s been right all along. From now on, I’m going to make my interactions less virtual and more real. If I can talk to someone rather than text, I will.
I’m not saying that mobiles are bad. They do make life a lot easier in some ways, but are they in our lives too much? We don’t seem to have to wait for anything anymore – our phones can give us everything instantly. But is that such a good thing?
Giving up my phone for a week really has improved my life. It’s made me realise where I need to make changes. But, most of all, it’s given me food for thought (and time to think about it). People are quick to question the sanity of decisions that go against the grain, but I think we should question the sanity of accepting something just because it’s become accepted. Maybe you don’t have to go to the extreme of giving your phone up entirely, but maybe give it up in certain circumstances. If you’re with someone, be with them entirely. Give them your whole attention. If you split the heat from one oven between two, nothing will come out cooked.