I was lying in bed on a bright summer afternoon – feeling lazy, weary, and dispirited as I mindlessly scrolled through my social media feeds – when a realization hit me. It was as if I had finally switched off autopilot mode and snapped out of a dreamlike trance. Suddenly, I asked myself the question which would go on to radically change the way I live my life:
What am I doing with my time?
A sinking feeling arose in me as I lay silently, contemplating this unsettling but deeply important question. Here I was – gifted a precious day of life on our immeasurably beautiful planet – and yet, once again, choosing to spend it by staring at a screen.
Curious and somewhat apprehensive, I checked my screen time data on my phone. The results shocked me. Day after day, I was spending an alarming number of hours – sometimes as many as seven or eight – scrolling through social media, playing Crossy Roads, and, well, wasting my time.
At that moment, I made the decision to get rid of my smartphone for good. And since then – now two and a half years ago – I have never looked back.
Naturally, I had some initial doubts. Was it even possible to get by in the modern world without a smartphone, especially as a 20-something-year-old?, I thought to myself. But the more I considered it, the more plausible it began to sound. I still had my laptop, so I wouldn’t completely fall off the online face of the Earth, and every other smartphone function seemed either replaceable or dispensable.
So, determined – and maybe a little naïve – I followed through with my decision, got rid of my smartphone, and purchased a functionally basic “brick” phone that could do nothing but text and call.
Inevitably, there were some factors that I had completely overlooked. A few days after I made the switch, it dawned on me how much I had previously relied on my smartphone in social situations.
I was at a party, chatting with a friend on the sofa when they got up to get themselves a drink. Instinctively, I reached into my pocket for my smartphone, only to be reminded of its absence. It was an uncomfortable moment – left alone, waiting for my friend, and having to awkwardly sit there without even being able to pretend that I was busy on my phone. Over time, however, I have found it liberating to be smartphone-less in social situations. Plus, with no smartphone to provide an easy way out of uncomfortable situations, I have had to simply persevere through them, and this has made me realize that, actually, awkward social situations are really nothing to be afraid of.
As for other potential difficulties, a solution has always presented itself. Without online maps, writing down directions on paper or asking people on the street has worked wonders; printing out tickets and writing down reference numbers has meant that I haven’t needed QR codes; and my inevitable FOMO after deleting Snapchat and Instagram was eased when an old school friend managed to track down my phone number to meet up with me. This made me realize that, if someone needs to contact me, they will find a way! And as for taking photos on the go, listening to music on the bus, showing friends pictures of my dog at the pub, and so on, I’ve accepted – after a period of adjustment — that I can do without these things in my life.
One thing is beyond doubt – making the switch has changed my life for the better. For the past two and a half years, I have spent more of my time doing things that really matter to me. My social media time has turned to meditation time; I am now wholly present during mealtimes with friends and family; and my downtime is now reserved for reading and writing. I am also living life at a slower pace – a train journey used to be an occasion to pass the time on my phone, and now it’s an opportunity to sit back, smile, and watch the world go by.
Perhaps the time will come when, due to a change in my life situation, going back to a smartphone becomes a necessary and sensible step. But all I know is that, for now, I am happier without one.