Challenges · Scribblings

5 Days, No Phone: A Challenge

Day 1

This morning I used my phone’s alarm to wake up. Most mornings I set two alarms. The first wakes me up and the second reminds me to get moving after scrolling though Facebook while half asleep. Today, when I woke up I had no social media to scroll through, so I got out of bed and made breakfast, giving myself an extra fifteen minutes.

Although switched off, I had my phone with me all day today. Having it nearby does cause temptation, and it was turned on twice; once, I made a phone call to arrange a meeting, and the second time I sent an email. While using a phone for important communications is justifiable, what the first day of this challenge has taught me is to be organised. Sending messages on the go is convenient, but important emails needn’t follow you down the pasta aisle of the supermarket. Instead, tomorrow I’ll be focusing on assigning time to replying to emails from my computer while at my desk.


Day 2

Knowing I would be without my phone today, I prearranged to meet a friend for morning tea at 9am. There was no opportunity to send a message postponing the arrangement or to send a warning that I was running late, and this kept me accountable.

Learning from yesterday’s mistakes, today I wore a wrist watch. I rely on my phone for small things which are easily taken for granted, but also easily replaced.

During my break between lectures I stood and stretched my legs, and I spoke to the people I share my time with but with whom I never share conversation. Each of these things added positivity to my day and had I carried my phone, would have been replaced with endless scrolling, and I wouldn’t have noticed.

This afternoon, I looked at social media from my computer. The moment of rest was controlled and purposeful. It was not a mindless scroll through oblivion; rather, it was a short check in. Scrolling can be impulsive, often, and I find myself online in every pause. Today was a nice break.


Day 3

Today I finished reading a novel which has been assigned for study. It isn’t a lengthy story, but I’ve been too busy to focus on it and finish. It turns out that ‘too busy’ is an illusion, and without my phone I have spare time. Perhaps all along I’ve been too busy for my phone.

I’ve noticed that I reach for my absent phone at strange times; for example, I like to watch a video while I get ready in the morning. While I cook, I listen to a podcast. While I study, I listen to music and pause constantly to see who’s online. There’s a constant need to be entertained, and by switching off my phone I have forced myself to be present. When I’ve been engaged and present in one task at a time, I’ve completed it more effectively and in less time.


Day 4

Last night I missed an important call. While purposeful engagement with social media and increased organisation are benefits of this challenge which enrich my experiences, missing important communication and losing contact with my distant friends is a source of stress.

My solution to this problem has been to leave my phone nearby and switched on, while avoiding using it. Temptation isn’t sustainable though, and this system does not suit me in the scope of this challenge.

This afternoon I deleted all social media, games and generally distracting apps from my smartphone. Doing this has essentially reverted the smartphone back to it’s original purpose; that is, I can call and text. Study, work and my social life oftentimes depend on fast and reliable communication, and by keeping communications open while reducing time on social media and online, I have found a productive balance. The sources of joy and fulfilment remain, and the sources of distraction have disappeared.


Day 5

This evening I shared a video call with my close friends who each live at a different number on the dot-to-dot map of the east coast, and it’s an example of social technology evoking joy. Despite engaging with technology in such a way, I still recognised a distinction between a video call with and without the internet literally in the palm of my hand. The conversation we shared had my undivided input and attention, and it reminded me that an impulse to check my phone disrupts moments which are more important.

Yesterday’s decision to delete every app additional to basic telephone features sums up my experience nicely. Instant communication with no regard to geography is such a privilege to enjoy; however, the world at my fingertips makes me hungry for entertainment, encourages procrastination and can be a source of stress.

This challenge made me uncomfortable, which was a perfect indication that I needed to take it. My phone is a valuable communication device, but it isn’t a limb or an organ.

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