Over the winter holidays, I decided to give up my life of luxury and downgrade to a Nokia 3300, or a “burner phone” as my friends like to call it. I did it as a social experiment to see if taking a break from an iPhone would have a tangible effect on my mood and well-being. I tried to go as long as I could – from Thanksgiving to the new year – but I have a tendency to be rough on my personal items and unfortunately ended up breaking the phone a week before the ball dropped.
Over the course of this break, I learned several lessons that directly relate to my relationship with myself and others. Here are the top ten:
1) Texting on an old phone is horrible. It took me ten times longer to compose and send a text message on the Nokia than it does with my iPhone. This meant that if I had to craft a text, my words needed to be thoughtful, clear, and concise.
How often do we slow down to really think about how our words are conveyed to others? Absent of tone, text can get us into hot water sometimes. During my break, I spent more time than I typically would have to call people in an effort to get an understanding of what was needed from me.
2) Picture quality was not good. Since the pictures were not of an acceptable quality using the Nokia, I ultimately took less pictures than I usually would have. These pictures forced me to stay in the moment. How many times have you attended a concert and observed everyone on their phones instead of actually watching the performance?
3) I became more appreciative of my surroundings. My head wasn’t buried in my phone. When I went for a walk, I was observant of my surroundings. I would take walks around campus and was able to enjoy the scenery.
4) People who want to stay in touch will reach out. With a smartphone, there is an influx of text messages and group chats, but with an older phone it is impossible to engage in group text apps like WhatsApp or GroupMe. With that being said, my friends and family who wanted to keep in touch would reach out to me via call. It was almost a “my tribe” filter. People who wanted to reach out would do so.
5) Posting on social media is not urgent. The memories are not going anywhere. Additionally, my thoughts on (insert topic) are not that important. With social media, everyone has a soapbox.
6) In-person conversations with people will always reign supreme.
7) Creative problem solving can be fun. Apps have made everyday life so much easier, but sometimes I found it fun to think of a solution to a problem with an app, even if it was more time consuming or difficult.
8) Email can wait. Nothing is really that time sensitive.
9) I take my smartphone for granted. Using the Nokia made me grateful for the advancement in technology and my access to technology in general. “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”
10) I was more present. This was the biggest lesson for me. My wife and kids appreciated my focus and presence more. I could tell that my time spent with loved ones was uninterrupted. Quality time is everything.
In closing, my mental health was rejuvenated during my little break from my smartphone. Ironically, I felt more plugged in being unplugged. This world is vastly connected with technology but sometimes we are not truly connected to each other and ourselves. I will continue to unplug routinely throughout the year in an effort to ground and center myself. I encourage you to try this out and let us know how it goes in the comments section.
Philip works at George Mason University as an Industry Advisor for Media, Arts, and Design. He resides in Burke, Virginia. He is married to his high school sweetheart and father to two boys. He also hosts a podcast called Positive Philter which focuses on positivity and well-being in everyday life