“You did what!!??” That’s the usual response I get from people when they find out I ditched my iPhone for an old-school flip phone. The questions that follow are usually accompanied with looks of concerns and bewilderment, almost as if I have just shared terrible news about the loss of a loved one. “How will you move on?” “Will you be ok?” “Do you need to borrow some money?” “Do you need a lawyer?”
It all started this past Christmas. My family and I had an early Christmas morning flight to Alaska to visit family. Much like the movie Home Alone, we were sprinting around the house doing last-minute packing and rushing to the airport to make our flight on time. Thankfully, unlike the movie, we didn’t forget one of our three kids. But as I made my way through the security checkpoint and cleared out my pockets, I realized I forgot something NEARLY as important: my iPhone. A sense of dread poured over me as I double and triple checked every pocket and every bag. When I resigned to the fact it was sitting on my nightstand at home, I immediately wondered, Should we even go on this trip? Is it even legal to travel without a smart phone?
The long wait in the security line provided enough time for me to mourn the forgotten phone and continue on the trip. You may find this hard to believe, but I survived for 14 days without my phone. Actually, it was probably a better trip without it. Truly. When I got home and found my precious still plugged in to the charger, I could sense deep down that it missed me those 14 days. My thumbprint recognized, it sprung back to life, welcoming me home with texts and emails. Life was as it should be.
But something in those 14 days made me curious about the importance of my phone. I wondered if our overall quality of life, our capacity for relationships, even our joy were being negatively affected by our phones. I talked to friends, and pretty much everyone immediately agreed that their life wasn’t better off having a smart phone. They appreciated the help of maps and the ability to take pictures but could see that the time they spent on their phone was taking away from their overall quality of life and ability to connect with friends and family. We would bemoan the distraction factor and then just laugh it off with a “Too bad you can’t really do anything about it. I use it too much for work/family to be able to ditch it.”
Then it clicked. If 14 days was doable, maybe 140 was. Maybe my family, my friends, and myself have just lacked the creativity to imagine life without a smart phone. Maybe we don’t really need a smart phone as much as we think we do, and the risk of ditching it is worth the benefit of being untethered to social media and email. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I was ready to take the risk. It was time for a change.
So I did the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the downright weird—I ditched my iPhone. I sold it. It was crazy. Packing it in the box to sell it was a surreal experience. I felt like I should perform a short funeral service as I closed the box. I didn’t, but I might have shed a few tears. I took the money I made on the phone and invested 19 of those dollars in a flip phone. For the past three months, I’ve been texting T9 style and enjoying high quality two-megapixel pictures. I’ve gotten some well-deserved ridicule from my friends on this, but I can say that the past three months have been absolutely amazing. Here is what I've noticed:
- It took me a full 10 days to stop checking my phone incessantly. It took me that long to realize there is literally nothing interesting to look at on my phone. Nothing. No games. No apps. It’s the most boring phone ever created. It doesn’t even have minesweeper or snake like my 1999 Nokia. Alas.
- I have become entirely uninterested in my phone. I forget it at home often. And it's wonderful. I don’t worry about it and I don’t feel a need to have it with me at all times.
- I talk to people in waiting rooms. Well, I talk to people over the age of 85—everyone else is on their phones. Nonetheless, I’ve met more people in the past three months than the previous year.
- You can print out Google maps, and your odometer works to help determine when to turn. My mental math skills are growing and I feel like an explorer every time I go somewhere new.
- Gas station attendants are clamoring for human interaction. They haven’t given anyone directions in over 10 years. Each time I’ve stopped to ask, it’s like they are being awaken from a dark slumber. So fun.
- I don’t take pictures much anymore (the camera is awful), but that I’m ok with that. I’ve enjoyed being able to stay in the moment and stay focused on what I’m experiencing.
- I'm more present with my kids. Even in the monotony of life, I’ve found that I need to stay present and keep them engaged while waiting in the car or in line at Costco instead of defaulting to my phone.
- I'm developing a healthier balance of work and family. Not even having the option of checking my email on my phone has been a game changer.
- Being able to make a loud sound when flipping the phone closed after a call adds a bit of drama to my day and makes me feel like a high-powered executive closing a business deal—even if it was just a reminder to pick up eggs.
- There are things I just won’t know or find out immediately. Its amazing how many things I “need” to find out about that I forget to look up online by the time I get home.
There are things I miss. I miss being able to check Twins highlights, I miss the ease of maps, I miss the apps that made my life easier. The truth is, I also miss the distraction. I miss the ease at which I could disengage and just have some alone time (even if people were around). I miss that feeling of knowing I was in the loop on the latest email chain.
It hasn’t been easy, but it's been worth it. You might not need to ditch your smart phone—you are most likely more disciplined than me. But perhaps it's time to do something a bit out of the box, something the world might not understand, to ensure you can be present with your friends, be engaged with your family, and experience all that life has to offer. Take a risk and unplug. It's worth it!