“You’re crazy!” That’s the first thing my friend said to me when I told her I would be going five days without my phone.
Honestly, I agreed with her. I am addicted to my phone, and it’s not good. Although typical for someone my age, there is nothing healthy about my daily phone usage. In the days leading up to this experiment I spent an average of four and a half hours on my phone every day. Four and a half hours, that’s insane! On the day I used my phone the most, I spent seven hours staring at a screen. Seven hours in one day. What a waste of time!
I’ve finally decided I’m done giving so much time to technology. Thus, I found myself undertaking a “Five Day Challenge.”
Going into this experiment, I had some difficult choices to make about how the rules would work. I decided strict was the way to go.
- I will not have my phone from Monday until Friday, and the phone can be used again on Saturday morning.
- My computer cannot be used as a replacement for my phone. I will continue to use it for schoolwork only; no games, no social media, and no Netflix.
- Upon my parents’ request, my phone must be with me when I drive anywhere alone in case of emergency. While the phone has to be with me, it stays sealed in the bag, remains turned off, and is tucked away in my backpack or the glove compartment.
- I cannot use anyone else’s phone as a replacement for mine. Bottom line: no cell phone use whatsoever.
- I can use the home phone. This one was a hard choice to make, because in some ways it feels like cheating. In the end, I decided to allow it because one of the major goals of this experiment was to get back to quality conversations and relationships with my friends, ones that were based on more than text conversations and social media. While talking on the phone may not be the same as talking in person, it still provides the opportunity for a “real” conversation.
The day before
My heart skips a beat as I remember that tomorrow would be the first day of my phone- free challenge. I am not prepared. I use my phone for everything: to wake up, to communicate with friends and parents, to take notes about homework, to entertain myself, to check my email, to check the weather, and to quickly look up any information I need. How will I talk to my friends? What if I have a question about homework? What if I have a funny story to tell? How will I wake up without an alarm?
I frantically dash around the house trying to find an alarm clock. I finally find one in my brother’s room that will be suitable, so I unplug it and sneak it back to my room.
Next, I have to text all my friends my home phone number in case they need to reach me. I start thinking the land line may become my best friend this week.
The final moments
Finally, the time I have been dreading arrives. Before I go to bed, I shutdown my phone and slowly zip it up into the rainbow, zigzag patterned, fabric pouch which will become its new home for the next five days.
6:00 am: The sound of the blaring alarm startles me awake. I lay in bed, and without the distractions of YouTube videos and Instagram, I quickly get up and start my day far earlier than usual.
7:05 am: I leave for school ten minutes early today because I’m ahead of schedule. Before leaving I pack the sealed bag containing my phone into my backpack in case of an emergency. As I pick up the bag I wrap my hand around the phone and feel the longing to take it out and see the screen illuminate with texts and notifications from my friends. Overall, I’m missing my phone, but this challenge seems manageable. I’m even starting to feel like it might be a positive experience.
7:30 am: Now that I’m at school, I take back everything I said about this challenge being manageable. This is not manageable. This is torture. As I sit in the car with my friend watching her play games on her phone, I realize how hard it is to be phoneless while everyone else is not. I feel isolated even though I’m surrounded by people I know.
10:00 am: By the end of second hour, my realization becomes a reality. At the end of class, instead of going on my phone like I usually would, I look around the class and watch everyone else go on their phones. What fun! The dread is starting to set in and I’m not sure the rest of this week will be possible. I feel a little anxious.
12:30 pm: Lunch goes better than expected. While it’s hard to watch my friends go on their phones, they use them less because I don’t have mine. We have real conversations, which does not always happen, especially on mondays when everyone is tired and would rather scroll through instagram than tell stories and talk about their weekends. I must say, talking and laughing with friends is much more entertaining than anything I could do on a phone.
8:00 pm: I do all of my homework and work ahead. Not having a phone is really helping me stay on task.
6:30am: I lay in bed, but all I want to do is watch a YouTube video or scroll through Instagram and see what everyone else is doing.
8:30am: I want to hang out with my friends tonight, but with no way to contact anyone or coordinate times, it’s pretty much impossible.
3:00pm: Overall, today was uneventful and extremely slow. I still feel the random urge to check my phone, which makes me realize how much I check it during a normal day. I started emailing my friends which helps a lot. I’ve realized talking to them is the only thing I truly enjoy about using my phone. As I evaluate my time without a phone, I find scrolling through instagram and sending snapchats doesn’t give me true enjoyment; it just fills my time.
5:00pm: My friend and I go to the beach to see the gigantic waves and watch the sunset. It looks really pretty. Normally, I would have used my phone to capture such a beautiful moment, but instead I sit back, enjoy the view, and take it all in.
9:30pm: I go to bed at 9:30, which is the earliest I’ve gone to bed all school year. Not having a phone has been a great improvement for my sleep schedule.
7:00am: This has been a long week. That is all I can say.
8:45am: I’m starting to worry that someone has been texting me and I can’t respond. What if they think I’m ignoring them? Paranoia is setting in. My friend offers to check my phone for me, but that feels like a violation of the rules, so I say no. Even if she did check, I wouldn’t be able to respond, so there really was no point, right?
11:00am: Normally I use my phone as a way to get out of awkward situations, or avoid conversations with people I don’t want to talk to. Without my phone I can’t do that, which is probably for the better.
6:00pm: Today was rough. All I could think about was how bad I wanted my phone back, but then my dad says something at dinner that really makes me think. He says “doesn’t it kind of scare you that this has been so hard for you?” To be honest it does. Five days without a phone is not very long, and the fact that I’m struggling after just three days is alarming. I am addicted to my phone. Even more alarming, I have a lot of friends who are far more addicted than myself. I know too many people who could barely make it through one day without their phone.
9:00 pm: After my realization at dinner, I’m glad I’m doing this challenge. It’s still hard, and I still wish for the convenience my phone would provide, but it’s good to take a break.
7:00 am: Only two days left. Honestly I’m growing used to not having a phone at this point, and I kind of like it. This experiment has made me wish I grew up in the time where cell phones were not yet a thing. After this experiment is over, I’m hoping I won’t slip back into old habits.
11:00 am: This week, seminar has been so much more productive than usual. Instead of texting my friends, I occupy myself by working ahead on my homework, and I finally feel on top of all of everything.
3:00 pm: I really don’t miss my phone too much anymore, but there are still times where I miss the convenience it allowed. For example, my friend and I are going to a meeting at 3:15, but finding her will be a challenge. Normally, we would just text each other our location and then we would meet up. Today we had to email each other ahead of time and decide on a meeting location. That worked, but texting is much easier. I’m also very impatient, so not being able to continuously text her and ask where she is drives me crazy. Not having a phone and the instant gratification that comes with it has definitely brought about some self realization about my lack of patience.
9:30 pm: This week, I have felt more alert and stress free than I have all school year. Not only do I have more time to focus on school, but I also have more time to do things I truly enjoy. Instead of spending all my free time looking at Instagram and Snapchat, I spend the majority of my free time reading or spending time with friends and family. Trust me, there is nothing fun about social media, it just fills time. Spending time doing things I truly enjoy has been one of the best parts of this experience.
10:00 am: It’s crazy to think back to Monday when I struggled to watch other people go on their phones after class. Now, it barely phases me. I’ve found that to be a common trend with this project. What once seemed impossible, is now second nature.
12:00 pm: After this challenge is done, I hope my friends and I can continue to have interesting conversations at lunch. Of all the good things that have come from this experience, phone-free lunches with my friends have definitely been one of the best parts.
7:30 pm: Tonight at dinner my parents and I are talking about how I would have never survived if I lived during the time they grew up. But honestly, when I look back to the time period they grew up in, it sounds so much better. Time with friends was not spent staring at phones, conversations were had in person or on the home phone, and there was no social media where people could complain about irrelevant problems.
10:00 pm: The challenge is basically over, and when I wake up tomorrow I will be able to use my phone freely. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty excited to have it back, but I will definitely not forget what this experience has taught me.
Now that the challenge is over, I get to use my phone again, but how I use it will be forever changed.
One decision I have made is to always put my phone in the other room while I do homework. During this challenge, the amount of time I saved on homework was tremendous, and there’s no denying my stress levels were reduced.
Another change I have made is setting aside times where put away my phone and spend time doing something I enjoy. For example, around 9:00 at night, I’ll set aside my phone and take some time to read and relax. Not only is this something I enjoy doing, but it also helps my sleep schedule because I’m not spending two hours staring at a screen before I go to bed. Another time I set aside my phone is in the morning. I may play music, but other than that, I focus on getting ready and taking the time to clean my room and make my bed. Giving myself the time to get organized leads to a much better start to the day than any activity I would do on my phone.
Finally, I have tried to be more aware of the times I am using my phone. Phone time should be saved for times when nothing else exciting is happening. I try to remind myself when I’m with friends or family, or just doing something fun, to put aside my phone and live in the moment. The convenience phones provide can be great, but they have their time and place. I know for a fact I will never look back on my high school years and think “wow I really wish I spent more time on my phone.” No. I’ll look back and say “wow I wish I wouldn’t have wasted so much of my time staring at a screen. I wish I would have spent more time in the moment, and focused more of my attention on the people and things that mattered.”
The “Five Day Challenge”…I dare you to give it a try.