Things I Learned While Being Phoneless

 Photo by  Ali Abdul Rahman  on  Unsplash

Have you ever gone a day without being on your phone? Me either. That is until I was faced with the unplanned challenge of living with a cracked and broken screen. Living this way has created a lot of interesting insights in my mind of what life could be like if I were to use my phone differently. Today I'm sitting here crocheting, cuddling with my kids on the couch and pondering what life has been like without the use of my phone.

Imagine this, you're sitting all comfy on your couch with your kids piled all over you because all three of them want to sit on your lap at the same time. You're watching the ever so popular YouTube with its many channels filled with families doing fun and interesting things with their kids and you begin considering what it might be like to start your own YouTube channel. You wonder what kind of video editor you would need to use. What kinds of things you could do as a family. What exactly it takes to be successful on YouTube. These are a lot of interesting thoughts so you say to yourself,  I know! I'll check my phone! Wouldn't that be convenient and oh so helpful!? I'll just pick it up, start a Google search and immerse myself into the massive world of information for as long as my kids will let me. Yeah!

Ooooo actually, that's not going to be possible. Sorry. You don't have a cell phone to do that with right now. If you really want to find all that information out, you're going to have to try and dig yourself out of the child dogpile, log in to your computer and research like you're back in high school. 

Annoying, right? A tad bit inconvenient? I'll tell you what. I can't count how many times my ADHD brain has had this experience over the past 2 weeks, 3 days and 12 hours that my phone screen has been out of commission. Yup. That's right. I'm basically phoneless in the age of the cell phone with a brain that never stops for breathe and is constantly coming up with new ideas. Yet I was surprised to discover there was a twist I never thought a situation like this would create. Relief.

I'm not crazy I promise. Relief may sound a little bit like a stretch to some of you. I don't know. Maybe it wouldn't bother you much or maybe if this were you, you'd be stressed out to the Nth degree. Honestly, I don't blame you in the least for stressing. Trust me, the second my phone fell out of the diaper bag, my heart sunk and I had to fight back tears of panic. I immediately started wondering what I was going to do and scolded myself for not having put my phone case back on when I knew I should. Come on self! You know you're a master at breaking phones since the pocketless legging obsession you acquired began! Sheesh! Don't you hate having no one to blame but yourself? Ugh.

I need to report that the first 12 hours without a phone was surprisingly bearable, outside of my initial panic that is. At the time, my husband and I were stuck in a small hotel room with three young, antsy children with not a whole lot to do (Fun Fact: We now know that finding a nearby park near the hotel we will be staying at is basically a must when we travel since we are in the car for so long). As you can probably guess, I had plenty to distract me that night and wouldn't have been able to afford a glance at my phone anyway. The next day, on the other hand, was a different story. Riding in the car for hours on end was, for lack of a better word, weird. I couldn't do a lot of the habits I had subconsciously created and kept having to mentally check myself every time I reached for my phone. As day after day went by, despite being on vacation, the amount of anxiety and concern for what might be happening off in cyber space began to build. Whose messages might I be missing? Was my business doing ok? Were people starting to become upset? You know the drill; what if's up the wazoo filling my mind. Not gunna lie, it was tough for me and I struggled mentally for almost an entire week with the worry and concern. I wish I had the words to properly describe what it felt like. Let's just say I didn't know how to relax and enjoy my vacation for 7 out of the 10 days we were gone. Thankfully, by the grace of God, I did eventually figure it out and the weight began to lift. Mentally the sun shone through all those anxiety ridden clouds and I started feeling something I hadn't felt for awhile. Freedom.

What I have started to piece together is that we are living in a day and age where there is a high unspoken expectation of immediacy and accessibility. It's like we are enslaved to our phones and don't seem to have any awareness of it. We experience these odd, almost unnatural feelings and impulses. Many if not all of us have experienced moments like this: You receive a text message, Facebook message, Instagram message, social media comment, invitation, email, a tweet and whatever other kind of notifications you receive and you don't or can't check it right away. But you heard the sound, maybe even felt it vibrate and now the timer is ticking. The pressure starts to build like the potential energy behind a spring. Maybe you try to hold it back. Maybe you don't but it's there. The impulse to check, to see, to find out what it is. I don't know about you but it doesn't take long before I give in to the Siren's call as if I were Odysseus without earplugs and I doom myself to distraction. 

I wish I knew why it was so hard to resist! Maybe it has something to do with curiosity. Maybe it's the highly addicting and carefully researched positive reinforcement that Facebook offers. Maybe it's the fear of not answering someone quick enough and the concern of what they might think. Maybe it could actually be an emergency or important! We'll never know unless we look! Unfortunately, it can be just so stinkin' hard to resist the goofy mind trap hearing a notification creates.

How good would it feel for you to know you have a really fabulous and legitimate reason not to answer all the messages and notifications you get 50 times a day!? You wouldn't have to feel guilty or anxious. You wouldn't have to temporarily be interrupted every few minutes. You could fully focus on your kids or husband or friend who is literally right in front of you. Can you imagine it!?

I'll let you in on a secret... 

It. Is. AWESOME!

There have been days in the past where I have been having an overwhelming day. My kids are crazy, there's housework up to my eyeballs and my ADHD brain is out of control and because I had my phone, I would get so distracted by mentally escaping my trouble in cell phone land that I would end my day feeling like a failure because I got nothing done. Not having my cell phone pacifier has been a hidden blessing I never imagined I would possess. Lately, I haven't had to battle with the added distraction that can sometimes get me off track for hours. I am gaining the ability to slow down some and not have such a high feeling of urgency and stress. I am losing the on edge feeling of wondering who just messaged me or interrupting something important just to see it was only another unimportant Facebook update about some random person posting in a group. I'm developing more purposeful times to check Facebook messages or research things on Google (though not quite as focused as I'd like. Thanks ADHD) and it feel as if there is an unconscious weight that has been lifted from my mind. My friend, it is simply wonderful.

That's not all though. Not having my phone has also changed my perspective on certain things. Things I wasn't aware were missing from my life. I'm more aware of my ability to be more mentally present in my daily life. I am improving the meaningful ways I connect with my kids and husband. I'm more capable of noticing the world around me and I'm able to appreciate the "empty" moments in life where I have "nothing to do". The desire to read a book has returned when I hadn't even realized it had left. I am able to be more creative because I don't have a research/answer tool at my fingertips for every random idea or question that pops into my head. I have been able to build deeper relationships with others because to interact with them, I actually have to call and talk (which has brought to my attention how few people answer their phones anymore or even listen to their voicemails but those are ponderings for another time). I have found that I get tired earlier at night and tend to fall asleep faster. Even more surprising is that being phoneless is saving me money because I don't end up buying things that aren't really needed while scrolling through Etsy or Amazon on a whim. Even as I type, I've realized another thing. Can you imagine how much time I must have wasted over the last few years? How many missed opportunities to connect with other human beings? How interesting that a tool that is supposed to be so helpful can also have the potential to be damaging to life and relationships.

In the beginning of all this I was in a hurry to replace my phone. I kept thinking about how badly I needed it to run my business and take photos and be available for people to get a hold of me. Now I'm glad that I can't use it like I used to. I kind of like that all I can do on it is use Google voice commands to call people because in reality that's all I really need right now. My hope and plan is that this time away from that wonderful, magical yet somehow sneaky time-suck tech device will make me more aware when I get a new one.

Personally, I don't enjoy discovering something about myself and then tossing it by the wayside. So in light of all these revelations, I think a plan is in order. Don't you?

Here's what I'm thinking. When I get another phone, I need to implement some boundaries that will keep me accountable to this new found freedom. The top three things I see helping the most are: 

-Turning off all my notifications except phone calls. 

-Keeping text messages silent and have no flashing blue light alerting me.

=Not downloading certain apps that have caused me a lot of distraction or temptation in the past (like Amazon perhaps. I have a feeling my hubby will like that one).

Don't get me wrong, by no means will I ever be a phone hater but in lieu of what I'm noticing about myself lately, I'm thinking it would be wise to be more careful in the future. I'd like to be more of a phone user, instead of a potential phone abuser. HA. Who knows? They might have to add Phone Addiction to the mental health DSM-V someday just like alcohol and drugs made their way in there. Either way, it gives me a lot to think on and consider. I look forward to seeing if I will be able to be successful in protecting myself in the future.

What do you think?
Have any of you ever noticed these same things?
What has your experience with your phone been like?
Do you have any more suggestions on how to prevent myself from the danger of phone addiction?

Bonus Challenge:

Try turning off all the notifications on your phone and see how long you can go without checking it. I'd love to know if any of you try it and how long you lasted.
I would be happy to post the person with the highest score right here. 

No Phone Check High Score: 

 

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