We have a challenge for you:
Get rid of your phone for one whole week.
Don’t hide your phone for a week. Get rid if it, by which we mean, make it completely inaccessible.
If you’re saying, “What’s the big deal?” then this challenge is for you. The worst thing that happens is you get rid of your phone for a week and don’t miss anything. Best case scenario, you find out you are just in denial.
If you’re saying, “There’s no way I can do that!” then this challenge is also for you. Because the truth is, you can, and it might change your perspective about who you are and what role your smartphone plays in that.
What started this challenge? Well, two weeks ago I lost my phone. I didn’t have a smartphone for a whole week. I couldn’t believe how much this affected me. You see, I haven’t even had my smartphone for two years. Before I got it, I was downright scornful of the things. I didn’t want to be one of “those people” who couldn’t eat a meal or have a conversation without checking their phone. I was clueless about apps and phone lingo, and proud of it. When I decided to get one, it was purely for work purposes. I didn’t think of myself as prone to smartphone syndrome, and I wasn’t afraid of falling into its clenches.
But it was there, lying latent and then growing all along. I realized it the first day I realized my phone was gone. I panicked. How would I keep up with emails? What if someone really important called me? How would I set my alarm?? How would I know what day it was??!!
Then, at approximately 6 PM on Day 2, I realized this was a blessing in disguise. I was on my way out the door to the grocery store and planned to get a new phone on the way back. It was my first trip out of the house since losing the phone. Suddenly I realized I would have no point of contact with anyone while shopping. Forgot to put toilet paper on the list? No text messages to remind me. Urgent email in my inbox during my shopping trip? I wouldn’t even know it was there (panic!!) and it would have to wait until I got home. Flat tire? I’d have to fix it myself. And of course, no cute selfies of me and Jude hanging out in the grocery store parking lot. I froze for a moment, then continued to the car, reassuring myself that it would be okay.
All the way to the grocery store I reflected on how ridiculous it was that I hesitated so much to leave the house without my phone. My original reason for getting it – to help manage my workload – had fallen into the background. Originally, I wanted a smart phone so I wouldn’t have to be tied to the computer all day for work. But I realized I was just tied to my phone now, and not even for good reasons. So I decided I wasn’t going to pick up a new one. I was going to give it a week and take a break from the smartphone.
THE EVIDENCE IS MOUNTING
You might think all this sounds ridiculous, but the evidence is mounting that smartphones have a significant impact on our health and happiness. Here are just a few of the recent studies I found in a brief search:
Cell Phone Use Affects GPA, Satisfcation With Life (SWL), and Mental Health
Cell phone use/texting was negatively related to GPA and positively related to anxiety; in turn, GPA was positively related to SWL while anxiety was negatively related to SWL. These findings add to the debate about student cell phone use, and how increased use may negatively impact academic performance, mental health, and subjective well-being or happiness.
Cell Phone Users Can’t Relax Without Their Phones
Results showed no difference between the three groups’ understanding of leisure. However, significant differences emerged when comparing the three groups’ perceptions of the cell phone’s role in facilitating leisure. Specifically, high-frequency users appeared more dependent on the cell phone for experiencing leisure.
Cell Phone Use Endangers You On the Road
Individuals who reported frequently using cell phones while driving were found to drive faster, change lanes more frequently, spend more time in the left lane, and engage in more instances of hard braking and high acceleration events. They also scored higher in self-reported driving violations on the DBQ and reported more positive attitudes toward speeding and passing than drivers who did not report using a cell phone regularly while driving. These results indicate that a greater reported frequency of cell phone use while driving is associated with a broader pattern of behaviors that are likely to increase the overall risk of crash involvement.
Cell Phones Fry Your Brain
This review concludes that the regular and long term use of microwave devices (mobile phone, microwave oven) at domestic level can have negative impact upon biological system especially on brain. It also suggests that increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) play an important role by enhancing the effect of microwave radiations which may cause neurodegenerative diseases.
Cell Phones Make You Lonely
This study developed a research model of mobile voice communication on the basis of the social skills deficit hypothesis. In the model, poor social skills were related to less face-to-face and mobile voice communication, which was linked to greater loneliness. Structural equation modeling analyses of survey responses from 374 adults supported the social skills deficit hypothesis in that poor social skills were related to less involvement in face-to-face communication and greater loneliness. Also, as expected, more face-to-face interactions were associated with lower levels of loneliness; however, more cell phone calling was associated with greater loneliness. Additional regression analyses revealed that the positive relationship between mobile voice communication and loneliness was more pronounced for those who have more friends than those who have fewer friends.
AFTER THE BREAK
When I was in college, I went on an Ignatian retreat for four days. If you’re not familiar with Ignatian retreats, there is one thing you need to know – there’s no talking allowed. Four days is like a super watered-down version, too – the real retreats are for thirty days. When you finally come back to the “real” world after being on these silent retreats, things are different. It takes a while to readjust to the noise and busyness of everyday life.
That’s kind of how I felt when I got my phone back. It was noisy. And always flashing. And notifying me of things I really didn’t care about. I found myself leaving it inside the house when I went out to work in the garden – something I would have never done before. Before my week-long vacation, my phone was my constant companion. After the separation, I didn’t even notice its absence.
Will it stay this way? Time will tell. I’m sure my smartphone syndrome will resurface, but I’m trying to keep it at bay by taking the following steps:
- My notifications are OFF for everything except calls. That includes text messages. Facebook is still on my phone, but I don’t get notifications. Twitter is gone. I was never good at it anyway.
- We’ve enforced a strict “no phones at the table” rule. This was a rule before, but the “enforced” part was lacking. And by “at the table” we mean “in the dining room during any kind of meal.” This also applies to things like family prayer time and reading time.
- Peter and I have made it a rule to put our phones away at least an hour before we go to bed and not pick them up for an hour after we wake up (at least).
- During car trips, the phone is on silent (unless they are long car trips or there are two adults in the car). Reading about the recent fatality of a woman who was posting phone photos in Facebook while driving reiterated the importance of this one. So to all my friends and family who I usually catch up with on drives in and out of town (you know who you are), my apologies.
- I keep my phone in my room all day and don’t tote it around in my pocket. I’ve become much more productive with the laundry since I made that change.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not bashing smartphones. If anything, losing my phone for a week made me appreciate the things I really need it for, like keeping up with work emails and staying updated on family and friends. But it also made me realize how quickly a tool we use for specific tasks can, when used excessively, keep you from other things. Now that it’s not my constant companion, I’ve noticed a few things. I look my kids in the eye a lot more. I get outside a lot more and for longer periods of time than I did when my phone was reminding me of other “more important” things. I enjoy my meals a lot more. In short, I feel more like a free and happy human being. Can’t argue with that.
So what do you say? Will you take the challenge? Have you ever had a similar experience?