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 a.m., and I have decided to leave the world behind for fifteen days…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 they needed. I also messaged a friend who had asked to hang out in the 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 turned 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 (Fear Of Missing Out) is real.

Before we go further, however, let me explain what I am trying to do. 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 very interesting. You can read about it more 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 and will be continuing this for fifteen days. I also added an additional twist to avoid all social media on my laptop as well. One of my initial concerns was negatively impacting my academic and professional responsibilities, so I will still have my laptop in order to complete my academic requirements as well as access to my email so that I can fulfill any professional obligations. As I mentioned before, I will still abstain from any and all social media on my laptop. At the end of every day, I will concisely write down the challenges I faced, if any. (But, let’s be real. There are about to be a LOT.) I’ll also be writing down anything different that I notice with my phone gone. Let’s see how this goes! ✌🏽

My Nightly 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 three hours before and trusted them to show up (I have trust issues because of flaky college students)
  • Used the radio and listened to cringy ads! DID YOU THAT STILL EXISTS!?! (I miss Spotify)
  • Printed out my Google calendar so that 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 my classes (it’s the first week of school)
  • Ordered and paid for food in person and waited for it to be brought out…felt like a true caveman
  • I told someone I had just met and gave my number to to wait for 15 days for a response. After I explained, he took it nicely.
  • Used an actual 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 the messages I’m missing…this is harder than I had thought 😩

Day 3

  • Accidentally logged onto Facebook for one second, yelled “F*ck!!”, and frantically closed the tab 👍🏽
  • Spent more time reading to entertain myself
  • Almost missed a message from my professor stating that class would 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 a mile back just to use the nearest landline phone
  • 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, an option to click, “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 were on their phones…sort of as if it seemed more unnatural now
  • I was forced to actually tune into 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 has become almost impossible to function optimally without it. Today, after my senior capstone class, I realized the amount of communication that is required from me to my team members, and vice-versa, in order to do a splendid job on our senior design project. The idea of not having my phone around after already missing a meeting for a different class made me weak. I came back to my apartment and 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 hopefully, they inspire me to change some of my habits.

Lessons Learned

  • Many businesses rely on you to have a mobile device to confirm identification.
  • Without a mobile device, you can feel more free or alone depending on the situation.
  • People expect to be able to reach you at any time anywhere with a phone, and that’s something we definitely take for granted now.
  • Without your phone, you have a lot more time for physical entertainment.
  • 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 multitasking without a phone.
  • Without a phone, life definitely becomes less convenient.

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