Ata Gowani

Software Engineer @HubSpot


4 Days. No Phone. Here's my Experience

Published Jan 17, 2020

The Setup

It is January 14th, 2020 7:42 AM and I have decided to leave the world behind for 15 days(only made it to day 4)…well, mainly my phone but these days doesn’t that basically mean our world. I messaged my family to send me an email if there was anything that they needed. And messaged a friend of mine who had asked to hang out this evening to just show up at my apartment at the specified time. “I will probably be around.”, I told her. Once those few things were taken care of, I shut off my phone, disabled FaceTime and iMessage from my MacBook, and sat there staring at the wall like a psychopath. All of this without any formal warning to anyone besides my family. This should be interesting.

I already have anxiety thinking about all the calls and messages I will be missing. The FOMO is real.

Before we go further let me explain what I am trying to do here. I recently came across an article on Twitter where a professor bribed his students (with extra credit) to give up their phones for nine days and the results were interesting. You can read more about it here. So, I figured why not do this for myself and see what challenges or revelations I come across. But instead of nine days I decided to make it a little scarier for myself and will be continuing this for 15 days and added a little twist by also avoiding all things social media on my laptop. One of my initial concerns was negatively impacting my academic and professional responsibilities so I will still have access to my laptop to do work required of me academically and access my emails on my laptop to fulfill any professional obligations. I will, as mentioned earlier, be abstaining from any and all social media on my laptop so as to not just replace my laptop with my phone. At the end of every day, I will write down (super concisely) the challenges faced if any (but let’s be real there’s about to be LOTS), and anything else that I might have noticed to be different with my phone gone. Let’s see how this goes! 🤞

My Nighly Journaling

Under each day is a list of things that I’ve had to do that would not have occurred if I had my phone on me.

Day 1

  • Asked a friend for the time
  • Emailed Venmo to be verified a different way because they were trying to send me a security code as a text message (still waiting to hear back)
  • Confirmed plans with a friend only once 3 hours before and trusted them to show up. (Flaky college students have got me having trust issues)
  • Used the radio and listened to cringy ads! DID YOU THAT STILL EXISTS!?! (I miss Spotify)
  • Printed out my Google calendar so I can hang it up in my room for easy access (I use my phone calendar religiously)
  • Wrote down or memorized the room numbers for the classes I am supposed to be in (It’s the first week of school)
  • Ordered food in person, paid for it in person and waited for it to be brought out…felt like a true caveman
  • I told someone I just met and gave my number to wait for 15 days for a response. After I explained, he took it nicely
  • Used a flashlight
  • Had a conversation and made plans to hang out over school email
  • Provided someone else’s phone number for a scheduled test drive to receive a confirmation call

Day 2

  • Asked a Walmart associate for help on finding a product (usually I’d just use the app)
  • Took a picture of my ID using the laptop web camera (Venmo finally got back to me)
  • Used a landline phone at the library
  • Made a physical to-do list
  • Attempted at memorizing my calendar
  • Had anxiety about messages I am missing…this is harder than I thought 😩

Day 3

  • Accidentally logged onto Facebook for one second, yelled “f*uck!!”, and frantically closed the tab 👍
  • Spent more time reading to entertain myself
  • Almost missed a message from my professor stating class will be starting late
  • Missed a class group meeting because I didn’t get the GroupMe notification
  • Read a book before going to bed instead of using my phone
  • Walked about a mile there and back to the nearest landline to make a call
  • Capital One locked me from my web access and gave me three options to confirm this login (call me, text me, use my C1 mobile app). There was however a link “None of these work?” which asked you to CALL them…🙃

Day 4

  • Had dreams about my phone…never thought I’d say that
  • I noticed it more when people are on their phone…sort of as if it seems more unnatural now
  • I was forced to be there in the moment during lectures no matter how boring they were 🙃
  • I gave up 😬

Final Reflections

I did not think it would be this difficult to rid myself of my rectangular device but turns out in modern society it becomes almost impossible to function optimally without it. Today, after my senior captone class, I realized the amount of communication that is required from me towards my teams members and vice-versa in order to make sure we do a splended job on our senior design project and the idea of not having my phone around after already having missed on meeting for another class due to that got me weak. I came back to my apartment and have decided to reunite with my phone.

Although I gave up so quickly, I did learn a few things from this experience that I’d like to share and hope they inspire me to change some of my habits.

Lessons Learned

  • Many businesses rely on you to have a mobile device to confirm identification
  • You feel more alone or free depending on the situation without a device that can always be reached
  • People expect to be able to and can reach you at any time and from anywhere with a mobile phone and that’s something we definitely take for granted
  • You get a lot more time for physical entertainment without your phone
  • It’s freeing not to worry about charging your phone at night
  • Not having a mobile device encourages you to have a lot more personal/physical connections
  • There is a lot less opportunity for multi-tasking without a phone
  • Life becomes less convenient without a phone

p.s. formal apology to all the friends and family that were worried or couldn’t reach me