Cutting technology completely out of my life seemed impossible, but from the moment I turned off my cell phone, the benefits were overwhelming.
I wake up every day in a world so dependant on technology: Alarm clocks, electric toothbrushes, pre-set coffee machines, Tesla charging stations, Apple Pay, Instagram… the list goes on. If you stop for a moment and think about what it would be like to go an entire day, let alone a week without any of this, it becomes overwhelming. And for someone who practically lives with headphones embedded into my ears, I decided that it was time for a break.
I turned my phone off, placed it into the side pocket of my purse, and headed out the door to start my work week phoneless. I am someone who is constantly on social media, emailing, and making notes on my phone for work. So I was immediately anxious. Just thinking about everything I was missing out on and the possibility of being behind, was not something I handled well. To my surprise, by the time I got to work, I felt awake. Usually, it is hard to feel this present after a three-hour commute in the morning. Without any distractions buzzing at my side, I turned on my laptop and the ideas started flowing. By the end of the day I hadn’t checked my phone at all.
When 5:30 p.m. hit, I headed out the door and instinctively reached for my headphones. I realized in that moment that It would be much harder to commute without music. Commuting in Toronto in general can be difficult for someone who likes to keep to themselves. Music is an automatic pass from listening to the buzz of the city. Between the trip to Union Station, waiting at my train platform, and the walk home, I noticed that I was missing out on a lot by tuning people out. For someone who works in an industry where you need to know what’s going on around you, I learned so much from just one half-hour walk. Looking at posters, listening to conversations, and just witnessing my surroundings.
By day three I felt a bit more at ease. I learned how to manage all of the small things, like how to wake up without an alarm, what to do in that down time after dinner, and how to deal with not texting or FaceTiming. At home, I had more face-to-face interaction at all times of the day. Not having the snooze option will do that to you. I was able to get through an entire book and prepare for my work week, like I should have been doing originally. Every now and then I would reach for my phone, pressing the home button, and realize that I wasn’t allowed to use it. But each day it became easier. On the way home from work on the third day I was genuinely excited to take in what was happening around me and generate it into ideas during a notepad brainstorm on the train ride home. When I got home, I was content with my temporary routine. It reminded me of a time before all of the social media and texting, when I found my happiness in genuine, in-the-moment, experiences.
On day five, I was ready to have my phone back. Not to go onto social media (I had done that on my laptop and became used to the cut back), but because I think that it has its benefits as well as disadvantages. Depending on your lifestyle, it is more of a hassle to cut it out of your life. Being a 20-year-old writer who spends more time with her head in a book, it’s refreshing. So, when I turned my phone back on at 5:30 p.m., I promised myself that I would continue to communicate, listen, and allot time for creativity.
Tips for those looking to take a break:
- 1. Take it one step at a time. We like to think that we are capable of going cold turkey when it comes to cutting back on technology. In fact, I am the first one to think I could do it, no problem. Fact is, we need to gradually move away from these things every once in a while. Start by eliminating one thing at a time. Try the bus ride without your phone, partaking in activities that require less technology-based interaction, or turn off your app notifications.
2. Make time for creative thinking. Something that I benefited from was having an hour or two a day with only a pencil and notepad in my hand. Yes, it is easy to take notes on your phone or laptop, but there is nothing more gratifying for your creativity than allowing a clear flow from your mind to paper.
3. Limit your social media usage. Sometimes we lose ourselves in the world of social media. We scroll until we wind up deep in others’ lives. To avoid this, limit yourself to specific times of the day to be on social media. And when it’s time to go to bed, plug your phone in an outlet on the opposite side of the room.
4. Don’t use your phone as an alarm. Our phone is usually the first screen we see in the morning. If you think about it, whether you use it as an alarm or not, you’re waking up and thinking of checking what is going on in the social scene. By simply using a clock as an alarm or asking someone else to wake you up, you’re taking a step back to take in what’s going on around you.
5. Have someone monitor your usage. It’s all in the name: App Detox. This app allows you to see how often you’re using specific social apps and to manage your access to them at specific time periods. This tool is helpful for those of us who need a bit more help taking a step back.