Experts say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So here it goes: I’m addicted to my smartphone. I sleep within arm’s reach of it. It’s first thing I check when I get up in the morning (and the last thing before I fall to sleep). I press the unlock button on the screen every 10 minutes to check for any missed text messages or calls–doesn’t matter if I hear a notification buzz or not. I’m even guilty of sleep texting. It’s bad. But studies show that I’m not alone. In fact millennials, those who fall between the ages of 19 and 29, suffer from smartphone addiction the worst. Some young mothers even use their smartphones during the most intimate moments of their lives.
While I won’t necessarily diagnosis myself as a nomphobic–someone who suffers from an extreme case of cell phone separation anxiety–I do know my smartphone is my personal crack cocaine. So like with any addiction, I’ve decided to go through a detoxification period: one full week without my smartphone. That means no GPS, no Facebook and (gulp!) no texting for seven days. And no, I don’t have a landline. To see whether my experiment was disastrous or beautiful, continue reading on.
Day 1: What Was I Thinking?
I think I’m going crazy. It’s been only six hours since I disassembled my phone and hid its parts in three different areas within my apartment–a piece under the bed, the battery under the couch, and the backing in my closet–but I already feel like I’m about to lose it. I’ve opened my office drawer three times (the place I often like to store my smartphone on silent) only to realize that it’s not even in there. Checking my phone for any missed text messages or logging in to Facebook is a treat for me, something I like to do after I’ve met a personal daily goal or deadline to break up the day’s work. But now those luxuries are gone and I feel terribly anxious and disconnected from the world. Work is just dragging on! Could all those studies about social media boosting productivity be right? Will this anxious feeling get better or worse? I’m starting to think this experiment was the stupidest thing I could have ever done.
Day 2: Phantom Phone
It’s my mom’s birthday today. So I stopped at the supermarket on the way to work and grabbed a chocolate cake, her favorite. Passing through the book isle, I noticed a map for the Houston/Pasadena area. I looked at it for a good 30 seconds, wondering if I should add it to my cart. After all, it might come in handy this weekend–I have two back-to-back parties to attend and don’t have the slightest clue how to get to either of them. But I decided not to. I probably wouldn’t even know how to read that archaic thing anyway. No judgments please.
I was told earlier last week office phones were prohibited for personal calls, but I used one to wish my mom a happy birthday anyway. I assured her I’d pick her up for dinner right after work. “Please don’t worry if I’m not exactly on time” I told her. “Expect me sometime between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., depending on traffic.” I figured that would be the best method for me this week: give someone a ridiculous block of time of when to expect my arrival–between noon and 10 p.m., just like a cable installer.
In general, today was better. The busier I am the easier it is to “deal.” I did have two slip ups on the ride home though. 1) I could have sworn I heard my go-go Power Ranger ringer go off, but then I shortly realized it was just the beat to Rihanna’s Where Have You Been? playing on the radio. 2) Embarrassingly enough three minutes later I tried to memorize a number so I could “text-and–win” One Direction concert tickets. I don’t even like that prepubescent British boy band! But texting to win something is so easy. Again, I had to remind myself I didn’t have my phone.
Day 3: You Got Mail
I received three emails today. I told a few of my most important friends about my cell phone hiatus, just so none of them would think I was dead in a ditch somewhere. But I didn’t expect any of them to actually make an effort to communicate with me sans text messaging or Facebook. One of my friends even went as far to tell me I “inspired” her. She’s planning on permanently deleting her Facebook for a day. “You’re so brave,” she wrote to me. I couldn’t help but laugh, it’s not like I’m donating a kidney or joining the military.
Day 4: Safety First
Every week my co-workers like to go to happy hour at one of the same four bars. Even though I’ve been to all of the locations more than once, I felt insecure without my trusty GPS. At the fear of getting lost or not finding the right highway to get home, I printed out a few Google maps to help guide me. Despite my Google maps, I made sure to ask several of my co-workers how to get home for reassurance. I got yelled at because I don’t even have my phone in the car in case of an emergency. So I decided to at least keep my phone in the glove compartment.
Day 5: This Sucks
Friends aren’t responding to my emails. No plans for Friday night. This sucks.
Day 6: Doomsday
I had two different parties to attend today: a Jamaican themed birthday pool party and a surprise “wig-wearing” birthday party. I printed out my trusty Google map and found the pool party location without any fuss. I came home and had exactly one hour to get dressed for the surprise party except there was one small complication: I told my friend (another party guest) I’d email her before I left the house so that she could tell me exactly where I needed to park. I wrote down the address from the Facebook invite the week before, but it said something about parking on a specific street so that the birthday girl wouldn’t be suspicious. My friend did not respond to my email in time. So I figured I drive around and look for her car once I got to the area. Then I realized I didn’t even know what apartment number I needed to look for. I couldn’t find my friend’s SUV and it started to get dark. I needed a phone.
My initial thought was to find a pay phone. But the closest convenience store didn’t have one. I could’ve walked inside and asked to use the store phone (if they’d even let me), but because I was wearing a mini skirt and looked like Beyonce with my 70s “Foxy Cleopatra” wig I did not feel comfortable walking inside of a store filled with men. So I did the unthinkable: I reached inside of my glove compartment and used my cell phone to call my friend. No ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t last a full week.
So what did I learn besides the fact that my alarm clock radio is much better at waking me up in the morning than my cell phone? It’s almost impossible to live without your phone. The accessibility it provides is just something that can’t be taken away now that we know what it feels like. But I can admit that I don’t rely on my smartphone as much anymore–in fact I left my phone at home on accident a few days ago and didn’t even flinch while at work. That’s huge progress for me.
Could you go without your phone for an extended period of time? Tell us your story in the comments section below.