If you know me at all you’ll know that my track record with cell phones would probably be comparable to a 2 year old constantly losing one shoe. To put it NOT lightly, I suck at holding on to them. But in the last year I’ve “got my shit together” as you’d say and managed to keep the same cell for almost exactly a year. That morning as I’m heading to see the whale sharks with my boyfriend, I’m chatting away about how I was almost at the 1 year mark and so proud of myself. Flash forward to that afternoon when I put it on the back of a toilet seat and then proceeded to walk out the door. Oops! Something I did in Vietnam 4 years before, a mistake I’d already made, and we’re sitting in the van heading back to Playa del Carmen and I realized I didn’t have it on me. I instantly dropped my head and knew exactly where I’d left it- on the back of the damn toilet seat! Women, if you’re reading this, we aren’t dudes, we face the toilet seat once, turn around and pee and then walk out, so stop making this a habit! I know from experience.
Thank buddha I do have insurance on my phone and happened to be heading to the states a week later, so instead of stressing about it I ordered it to be sent to Florida so I could pick it up from the Air BNB I’ve been staying at while skydiving here. It’s pretty obvious that I’m a huge social media buff, although I resisted smart phones for years I finally got one 3 years ago after everyone told me “it’ll change your life”… which it definitely has and although some changes as a traveler are extremely positive and make my life way easier, others are mostly negative and it’s so easy to become addicted to our phones. I’ve tried to find a balance with my smart phone use but I still find myself pulling it out while talking to people or scrolling pointlessly when there’s nothing to be looking at. Habits I’m aware of now and am working on breaking. I read a quote that said, “hang out with people that make you not want to look at your phone” and I’ve realized that my friends and my partner deserve my undivided attention when I’m with them.
I could have gotten a cheap throwaway for the week but I decided to go without and it was honestly such a refreshing reset. There were way more ups than downs and I noticed a few things in particular.
- I smiled at people more. Way more. When I wasn’t constantly checking my phone or pulling it out to avoid contact with people I found myself smiling at strangers and actually provoked interesting conversation with people. On the bus, at work, on my flight, everywhere. And you know what happened, people smiled back and it made me happier and more in touch the rest of my day.
- I had to become a planner. Gone were the days where I could change or adjust my plans last minute. Without a phone, I didn’t have that option. My mom used to always say how nice it was that people made plans and showed up instead of cancelling, and there’s something to be said about that. It forced me into make commitments and sticking to it, and now I realize how important that is. Not that I didn’t before but because everyone else always got away with it, I became a slacker myself. It made me realize I didn’t want to do that anymore.
- I read all the time. I’ve always been a reader, I go nowhere without my kindle and in most situations would rate it over my phone in terms of necessity. But instead of mindlessly scrolling on Facebook, I’d whip the kindle out instead and get 5 minutes of reading done while I waited. Hell, sometimes I’d just sit there and watch the world around me instead.
- I felt happier. No shit, seriously! I’m sure it was a combination effect of the above but I honestly felt more grounded and connected to myself, others and the world around me and I can only assume it came from being more present. Because I was less connected to social media I wasn’t absorbing everyone else’s energies all day. This allowed me to fully sit in my body and be aware of how I was feeling.
- I was less anxious. Maybe that’s because I didn’t feel the need to check my phone or think I’d missed something. And if someone tried to get ahold of me and I did miss it I had an excuse because I literally couldn’t have answered if I’d wanted. Something about that felt really freeing. I was only obligated to the people I was around and if I needed to sit down in front of the computer for a few hours to get some work done, I actually got work done instead of brainlessly using social media.
- I used my computer time wisely. Because I wasn’t constantly connected I had to schedule time in to respond to emails and maintain my own social media accounts. But because I was only checking in and logging off, I was able to keep the rest of my day separate. I made phone calls on Skype (which felt like going back in time) and paid my bills over Skype phone calls as well. It was actually good to schedule that time in instead of being reminded all day of emails and other various things I needed to respond to. I checked it all at once, and was done with it just as quickly.
- I didn’t miss it. I really thought it was going to have the opposite effect on me but I was relieved to find myself settling into it with ease and finding that it didn’t stress me out at all. Quite the opposite! Even when I did get my phone back I was hanging at the dropzone and spending all my time jumping and meeting new friends and it took me almost 2 days to get it configured anyways. I was bummed I slacked on photos but I actually don’t regret being fully present at all.
Conclusions? If you do have the opportunity to put your cell phone away, whether it’s on holiday for a few days or a weekend, you name it… take advantage of the opportunity! If you want to use your phone for photos, fine, just turn your data settings off so you won’t be tempted to use it for anything else. Trust me, no one will die if you aren’t Snapchat-ing the awesome weekend you’re having or sending out Instagram posts INSTANTLY, just hashtag #latergram and call it good! Or don’t hashtag at all, who fucking cares 😉
Because of that experience I still find myself rarely checking my phone and if I’m brainlessly scrolling I realize it pretty quickly. It changed the way I view social media and this “instant response” culture we live in. Now, I realize that I don’t need to stop what I’m doing to respond to a message when I can respond later. We need to stop harping people for not responding in “due time” and instead allow everyone else to live their lives presently and call or return our messages when they want.
I’d encourage everyone to be a bit more mindful when it comes to their phone. Try leaving it at home sometimes while you run errands, try charging it at night outside your room or out of reach and set an alarm the old school way. If you’re hanging with friends don’t reach for it unless it’s to take a photo, but then put it away. There are things we can all do differently and I can promise you it’ll make you feel better. This all coming from a girl that is definitely a social media addict! If I can have the awareness and start making small changes and it’s affecting me in such a huge way, I promise it’ll do you some good as well. Try some of these things and let me know what you’ve noticed! I’d like to hear your comments so please post below and let’s chat about it!