At a previous Meetup event I attended on digital consciousness, the organizer encouraged us to leave our phones behind at home for the day in spirit of the event.
I said why the hell not, left my phone behind at home, and had a revelation from the experience.
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I don’t need my phone.
After the two-hour meetup event was over, a couple of attendees and myself went for coffee. It was a lovely sunny day as we sat by the patio and chatted for a few hours before I headed home.
I didn’t have phone for about six hours while out and about, and I have lived to tell the tale.
It has been a really long time since I, at least consciously, have made the decision to leave the house without my phone.
Most of us can relate to the panic we feel when we think we have forgotten our phone at home. But, do we ever stop to ask ourselves why we feel the panic?
Without critically assessing and examining our attachment to our smartphones, having our phones on us 24/7 has become the norm. Being connected at all waking hours is the new normal.
What if there is an emergency?
Often times, we resist the idea of being out in the wild world without a phone because of a potential emergency, and we might need to contact people or people might need to contact us.
For some people, especially those that have kids or other dependents, this is a legitimate consideration.
Personally, the biggest emergency I can recall that was mitigated by being reachable has been last-minute plans with friends or families. For the most part, the real reason most people fear being without our phones is the need for escapism.
Our phones have become emotional crutches that allow us to avoid social discomfort and other unpleasant thoughts, feelings and experiences.
“But, I really need to be available 24/7 for my work/business/entrepreneurship/etc.”
Sure, if your commitments and responsibilities require you to be available 24/7, that is a different story as well.
The most important thing is to be honest with ourselves about the need for our smartphone devices.
It is vital that we ask the why questions regarding our attachment to these devices, including:
Why do I need to have my phone on me all the time?
Why do I feel like I can’t leave the house without it?
Why do I feel panic when I can’t reach for my phone? And, so forth.
Last week, after asking myself those questions and in the heat-of-the-moment-decision-making-spree, I went to the Apple store and traded-in my phone for store credit.
I didn’t want to think too much about how the heck I was going to survive without a phone, and come to the logical conclusion that I might need a phone.
The sales person was cheerful when she asked me what phone I was using now. I told her I just gave it to her. She followed up with asking if I was looking to buy one then. I wasn’t.
At this point, she must have assumed I couldn’t afford to buy a phone outright and told me my phone service provider might have deals. Of course, that wasn’t the reason.
She looked to be a bit concerned for me, but I didn’t feel like preaching about digital minimalism to a stranger to justify my decision to not have a phone, so I told her I’ll think about it and left with a $68 gift card phoneless.
I know it’s so cliché but I felt so free. I could do anything in the moment without any input from the world. It was a glorious feeling.
The most pressing issue right after I left the store was wanting to contact people to tell them what I just did. I obviously couldn’t and my ego got a reality check.
I lasted two whole days without a phone.
In those two days, I commuted. I went to work. I went to the gym. I went shopping. I basically did all the things I normally do, but without a phone.
Although I didn’t need a phone, I missed it.
I missed my alarm clock, iMessage, camera, music, podcasts, Suduko game, and everything else that is crucial to my first-world lifestyle in the 21st century.
With the full realization and understanding that I don’t, indeed, need a phone, I went and bought one because I wanted the convenience that a smartphone afforded me.
I kept the valuable lesson I learned though: I can not only survive but even thrive without a phone.
A phone is not a necessity, but simply a convenience. There are people who don’t have a phone for whatever reason and seem to be doing just fine.
Yesterday, I decided to leave my phone behind when I went for kickboxing class.
Between commuting and the class, I was completely unplugged for two and a half hours. I figured I can unplug for two hours and the world, even my world, will go on perfectly fine.
After some critical self-reflection, impulsive decision-making and life experience, I have learned that I can leave my phone behind for a couple of hours, or the whole day, without some crisis taking place.
Instead, I get enjoy the feeling of freedom that comes from not being bombarded with information overload, the longing for notifications, and the desire to escape myself.
I encourage everyone to experiment with leaving their phone behind to find out its potential benefits for themselves.
Start out simple. Leave your phone behind when you are out for a very short time. Ask yourself: Did it feel good? Did it add to my life in a positive way? Do I feel relieved without my phone on me?
Maybe you will find out that life is so much better when you have your phone on you at all times. Maybe, you will find out that it is nice to unplug once in a while, to be unreachable.
To leave it all behind.
Even if it is for a couple of hours at a time.
As Austin Kleon reminds us, All advice is autobiographical. YMMV: Your mileage may vary. Feel free to break the rules. Make the life you want.