What I Learned By Not Having a Phone for a Week

Last week, something tragic happened. My phone’s battery died (not unusual), but when I plugged it in, it didn’t charge (unusual). After spending 30 minutes talking to Apple support and eventually deeming iPhones and all Apple products poorly made pieces of garbage, I decided to give it a rest and take it into the store the next morning. After talking to a young man who seemed to know way more about technology than I will ever know, it was decided that my phone’s battery needed to be replaced. Because the repair shop didn’t have the part I needed, they kept my phone for the next six days. SIX DAYS. WITH NO PHONE. I’m not even going to pretend that I didn’t shed a tear.

Yes, I am aware of how much I sound like an overprivileged teenager who is addicted to their iPhone. That’s not exactly a lie, either. My entire life is on that thing. Passwords, calendars, pictures, you name it. I thought my six days without my phone were going to be painstakingly miserable, but I actually ended up doing a lot of reflection. Here are some of the things I learned:1.MapQuest is still a thing.

Looking up directions and printing them out seems so retro to me. I think the last time I used MapQuest was in 5th grade to get to a friend’s house. But for those of you who were wondering, MapQuest is still in existence, despite the fact that almost everyone now  always has a map in their pocket.

2. Not all beautiful things need to be photographed.

There were so many cool things I saw that I wanted to take a picture of: the full moon, the beautiful drive out to my friend’s house in the country, my lunch. Normally, I would just whip out my phone and snap a pic quickly. But without a phone, I was without a camera. I had to save mental images of these beautiful things instead of sharing tangible images with others. We always seem so focused on sharing our experiences with others, we never really take time to appreciate them by ourselves.

3. Not every moment is notable.

Similarly, not every single thing that happens needs to be shared with your friends. When something funny or interesting or sad happens, my friends are always the first to hear about it. It’s so easy to send a quick text and say “guess what just happened”, but without a phone you have to wait to either call them on your home phone or see them in person. And when you eventually talk to them, only the truly important things are said.

4. Privacy is hard to come by in a house with six people.

Like I mentioned before, I spent quite a bit of time talking on the home phone or FaceTiming from my laptop. However, when you’re living with five other people, privacy is extremely hard to come by. When you’re in your room, you’re never truly alone. When you’re on the home phone, someone is definitely listening on the other line.

5. We’re always so worried about the “what-ifs”.

The first time I drove without my phone, I was absolutely terrified. What if I got in an accident? What if my car broke down (very plausible actually, my car is on its last leg) and I was stranded on the side of the road? But then I realized that the likelihood of any of this actually happening is extremely low. How often do we stress about things that could happen, but probably won’t?

6. Social media is so negative.

Have you ever looked at your social media feeds with a critical eye? Almost everything is negative. People complain nonstop on Twitter. Everyone bashes each others’ political views on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen victim to this as well. But after I spent a week without getting updates and notifications 24/7, I realized how much social media can actually bring you down.

7. We are never really fully present in the moment.

I noticed this when I was hanging out with a big group of friends and half of us were on our phones. I can attest to this too; I always check my phone when I’m spending time with my friends. But because of this, I am never fully present in any moment with them.

8. Everyone seems to be looking for the next best thing.

We jam-pack our days with work, activities, meetings, and friends. But are we too focused on what’s coming up next that we are unable to enjoy things in the moment? Similar to my last point, our phones are enabling us to move forward faster. This is definitely a benefit, as our world is growing in ways we couldn’t imagine being possible. But it is also a pitfall, because we are spending so much time focusing on what’s next instead of focusing on what’s now.

9. Eating alone is okay.

I really wish I would have realized this about 5 months ago, when I ate at least one meal a day alone in the dining hall. I was running errands one day this week and stopped for lunch, only to realize that I would be eating alone without my phone. It was actually really fun; I was able to enjoy my meal without any distractions. I didn’t have to talk to anyone. It was peaceful.

10. Observing is really interesting.

Observing how people interact is an incredible learning experience. We encounter so many unique individuals in a single day. Think about how many people you see when you go to the grocery store or to work or to fill up your car with gas. We’re often plugged into our phones, not paying attention to the interesting people around us, but after taking the time to observe people and how they work, I will definitely be paying attention more often.

11. Responses are expected immediately.

I’m really no big shot. My “boss” is a mother of three who just wants her kids to be safe. I rarely ever get important emails, nor are my text messages anything of substance. Yet when I am detached from my instant notifications, everyone expects an immediate response from me. I do this too. Whenever I send an email, I expect a response within at least three days. Whenever I text someone, I expect them to respond within the hour, or at least within a few hours. It’s actually a little crazy how we expect everyone to be at our beck and call at any hour of the day.

12. Remember commitments and don’t rely on a device to do it for you.

I missed lunch with my grandma. I am not a terrible person, I promise. You see, I had scheduled lunch with her two weeks in advance, put it in my phone calendar, and then set myself a reminder for 24 hours before. But because I didn’t have my phone, I totally forgot about it. Lesson learned.

13. Staring is rude.

Anyone that has ever been out in public with me can attest to this: I am the worst starer ever. I don’t even think about what I’m doing, I just do it. Staring is super easy sans a cell phone, but that doesn’t discount the fact that it’s still rude.

14. Patience is a virtue.

We are so used to getting everything at the push of a button. We can order items on Amazon and have them delivered within 24 hours. We can check the weather, get in contact with friends, and get the news with the push of a button. But the minute our access to instant gratification is taken away, we are shocked. Patience is still a virtue. We will always have to wait for things, no matter how many of them can come incredibly quickly.

In all, not having a phone for a week wasn’t that bad. Yeah, it was hard. At times I really missed the ease of making plans in two minutes and knowing I will be able to call someone in case of emergency. But at the same time, I was able to learn things about myself and the world around me that I probably wouldn’t have had I continued to stay glued to my phone.

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