Here's What Happened When I Turned My Phone off at 7PM

Here's What Happened When I Turned My Phone off at 7PM

I mean, I'm not addicted to my cell phone. I can put it down. I can turn it off. Seriously. Watch. ... ... ... What time is it? What day is it? Where am I?

My name is Faith and I am a phone calling, text messaging, social media posting addict. And I know I am not the only one. You know who you are. We may lose our keys, our sunglasses, and some days our sanity, but our phone? Please.

“I can put it down anytime.” If you’re like me, you’ve been known to repeat this mantra with your head buried in your Instagram feed. But this time, I did something you wouldn't believe: to prove my iPhone holds no power over me, I challenged myself to turn it off at 7PM for one week.* Turns out, I made some interesting discoveries. 

*Monday through Friday only. Let’s not get carried away here, ladies.

MONDAY

Around noon, I start to get nervous. Seven hours until Night One without a phone and I’m already dreading it, desperately trying to get my screen time in. I check email repeatedly. I send texts with the veracity of a 13-year-old who just heard that Justin Bieber got engaged. Emojis abound, GIFs fly, and I check off app notifications like it's part of my job description. (It’s not.)  

At 7PM, I dutifully turn off my phone. By 7:15, I’m bored.

No Netflix, Hulu, or HBO. It’s like when the power goes off, and you’re sitting there alone in the dark, unsure what to do. Except the power wasn’t out, and when I flicked on my closet light? Giant mess. So with nothing else to do, I cleaned and organized my clothing pile until bed.

Since I wasn’t the only one sans phone, the night was easier than I thought. Our conversations weren’t interrupted and I felt like I got to connect with my friends in a way that normally isn’t possible.

TUESDAY

I wake at 7AM. PHONE ON. I come back online to a decent amount of email—my mom wanting to know if I got her package, a friend asking if I wanted to get drinks. (Ugh.) Despite lingering on my phone longer than usual during my morning routine, I still get to work early. Turns out that when you can actually see the clothes in your closet, it is easier to get ready.

WEDNESDAY

I cheat. Kinda, sorta. I’m having terrible anxiety about a work project, so I call a friend who lives halfway across the US for emotional support. A friend who I would have otherwise texted. A friend whose voice I haven't heard in more than a year. And it was ahhhmazing. I hang up feeling empowered. At the risk of sounding all Carrie Bradshaw, how is it that by not using my phone I've rediscovered its original purpose?

THURSDAY

It’s 9PM in a crowded bar. I’m seated with five of my closest friends, who are all buried in their screens. At first, I feel left out, but then I just get annoyed. It took us six weeks and countless reschedules to get us all in one place, and now no one's talking to each other. I promptly invoke a "cell phone stack" a la the TV show Younger. For those of you who don’t watch please start. But to bring you up to speed:  a cell phone stack is when everyone at the table stacks their phones. Obvious so far. Here's the twist: the first one to touch her phone buys the table a round.

At the risk of sounding all Carrie Bradshaw, how is it that by not using my phone I've rediscovered its original purpose?

I’m playing hardball here for selfish reasons. After all, if I can’t have my phone, no one can. Misery loves company—and free drinks. {click to tweet}

Since I'm not the only one sans phone, the night goes easier than I thought. Our conversations aren't interrupted and I feel like I connect with my friends in a way that normally isn’t possible.

I'm riding high until the end of the night when I hail a cab home. A real yellow cab with body odor emanating from its pleather seats. Uber, I will never take you for granted again.

FRIDAY

The night does not go that well. I tend to bounce around between friend groups and locations on Fridays. Now, knowing I won’t have a phone to check in or coordinate, I’m facing flashbacks of my teenage days where pay phones, answering machines, and pagers ruled the world. A sinking feeling hits me before I shut off my phone. And then like a Dementor Kiss,* my soul is replaced with epic FOMO.

I start the night by meeting up with a friend. She runs 30 minutes late. Suffice to say I'm bored. But the real problem? This lag makes me late to dinner with another group of friends. And it's a snowball effect. I run consistently late the whole night, and I actually wind up missing out on seeing a friend who was visiting from out of town. Needless to say, I'm not happy.

CONCLUSION

I’d love to tell you that I’ve continued with the challenge. That by unplugging, I have found clarity and calm, but I can’t. And that is not a bad thing.

I love all things tech so powering down every night is not for me, but setting boundaries between my iPhone and my real life is going to be a thing moving forward. After my week, I set a few new rules:

  • Implementing two cell phone free hours at work.
  • Turning on the do not disturb when I go to sleep.
  • When I am eating—even if I am alone—no phone.

*Yeah, I just Harry Pottered this story.

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What mobile boundaries could you set in order to be more productive and refreshed?