One day in March 2016 my smartphone just stopped working. I tried to reboot it but the screen never turned on again. It was a fairly new phone and I didn’t want to buy a new one right away. I was still at university at that time, doing my Masters. To save some money, I decided to postpone the purchase for a couple of months and see how living without a smartphone would change my life.
The smartphone controls me
If I look back on how I spent most of my days before my phone died, it was something like this…
The first thing I did in the morning was check my phone. Usually, it was full of social media notifications. After quickly swiping through all of them, I would check the news and sports websites. I would then check my email, WhatsApp and Facebook messenger. Then, to waste some more time, I would spend 5 to 10 minutes on Instagram and finally get ready for the day..
After leaving home, I would listen to Spotify on my way to university. At the university, I would constantly keep checking my email, WhatsApp, Facebook and other apps just as a reflex. When being with friends, I would check my phone in the middle of a conversation, with no real need to do that. It is not easy to resist your phone. Especially, when all the social media companies are spending billions to get you hooked on their product. As a result, I was constantly connected, anxious and not able to focus for a long time without being distracted.
When my phone broke, I didn’t feel that bad. I was curious to see if living without a smartphone will change my life for the better. I was using my phone too much anyways!
It’s crazy how much time everyone spends staring at their screens.
How my life changed living without a smartphone
Initially, I thought that living without a smartphone will be very difficult. But it wasn’t. Having no smartphone reminded me of my core values in life and that there is so much more I can do without being glued to the screen. Below, I have listed some benefits while living without a smartphone:
✓ I had more time: Having more time also increased my productivity. I read more books than ever before, had time to regularly go to the GYM, do all of my studies, generated more ideas and met up regularly with my friends. I didn’t waste my time on YouTube videos or Instagram anymore.
✓ I lived in the moment: While living without a smartphone, you can’t check your notifications, post Instagram pictures or text to someone. When you are with friends, you are 100% with them, with no distractions. When you go to an event, you enjoy it rather than take pictures/videos of it. It is a much more valuable experience.
✓ I walked regularly: When I had a free moment, I couldn’t turn to my phone anymore. I had to find new ways of spending my time. One evening, I decided to go for a walk. I had never intentionally done that before. Walking helped me to clarify my thoughts, solve problems that I had and relax my mind. I still walk regularly.
✓ I was less anxious: As I had more time for meaningful activities and didn’t have to check my phone every other minute, I felt less anxious.
✓ I interacted more: At a party, where you don’t know many people, you can’t scroll Instagram or tweet anymore. You have to find someone to have a conversation with or leave the event.
✓ I planned more: Remember the old days, when you had to look up on Google Maps the way to a friends house, draw it on A4 (or print the map) and then leave the house. This is what I did during these 3 months living without a smartphone. It actually wasn’t that bad.
✓ I gained patience: What do you do when standing in a line? Waiting for a bus? Sitting in a traffic jam? Most of the people are looking at their phones. They can’t have a moment of doing nothing in their lives. Doing nothing in these situations actually trains your patience.
Technology increasingly dictates how we behave and how we feel, often at the expense of other activities we find more valuable.
Should I get rid of my smartphone?
Based on what I have written above, you probably think that I would suggest to get rid of your smartphone or get a “stupidphone”. That is not the case. After living without a smartphone for three months, the main thing I understood is that you have to control how you use your smartphone or any other tech device so it doesn’t control you. If you manage to limit your screen time and use your smartphone effectively, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t own one and enjoy the benefits that it offers.
However, if you find yourself spending the whole day on your phone and checking it while having a conversation with your friends, then you should get rid of it for a while to learn new habits. Time is your most valuable resource and you want it to be used on more meaningful, offline activities that will create long term benefits rather than satisfy short term needs. If you are not sure how much time you are spending on your smartphone, you can download any of the apps that track your screen time.
Now in 2019, I have a smartphone. I have deleted all social media apps on my phone, so I can access them irregularly, only on my laptop. I limit my screen time to activities like planning, consolidated texting, having phone calls and emails for work purposes. In my free time, I try not to use my smartphone as much as I can and enjoy life around me.