Why you should keep your phone away for 5 days in 2019

Before the end of 2018, I knew that I needed time off to clear my head and gain some inspiration and appreciation for the things in my life. So, I thought that one of the ways to achieve this is to not use my phone for 8 days. I have to confess, this changed to five days because I did not want to set myself up for failure in the New Year. So I am on my fifth day, having not used my mobile phone at all. It has been turned off and placed in a cupboard but I am thinking of placing it on the dining table just to make the challenge harder.

This reminds me of January 2017 when I decided to be Pescetarian for one month. It was hard at first- I remember even having dreams about meat. These were the sort of dreams that I never had before and goes to show how much I craved meat. I am not even a huge meat-eater but a deliberate attempt to not eat meat was hard! I accomplished the task, not eating meat for 32 days. I was very proud but tried to replicate this later on in the year and failed woefully. I had very hungry moments where I, devoid of any reasoned contemplation, ate McChicken sandwiches only to later realise my dietary restrictions.

Before the end of the year, I thought this should be easy. After all, I went without a phone for three months leading to my final year. This was not out of choice at first but I found it enormously useful so I stuck with it. I thought this should be easy- I have done this before but I was wrong. The first day was hard. I had moments when my sister had to talk me out of taking my phone from the drawer. Not having my phone felt like hell and I felt like a drugs addict going cold turkey. Over the days, it has gotten easier and I have become more used to it.

So, the question is what do I miss the most on my phone? I did not realise this before the experiment but I missed WhatsApp and chatting with my friends. I did not realise that I had formed somewhat unhealthy attachments to certain people and depended on them to entertain me or talk to me. There were a number of names that kept coming up because had I been with my phone, I would have talked to them multiple times that day.

apple applications apps cell phone
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com

This experiment proved to me that the most valuable aspect of my phone was the convenience it provided. I miss having my alarms come on. I miss getting notified of my emails or using google maps to find my way. When I had to go to the library, I wrote down the route and landmarks on a sheet of paper. I have to confess to feeling embarrassed when I brought out the paper on my way to remind me of the route. I missed the apps that entertained me whenever I was bored.

In addition to not using my phone, I attempted to make the challenge harder by preventing myself from using any social media specifically Facebook and LinkedIn, which are the two main ones I use.  I also was not allowed to use YouTube. What I also found interesting was that not once, did I miss using Facebook. For YouTube, I failed woefully. At first, my excuse was listening to music because I forgot the password to my Spotify account so I could not log in through my laptop. By the third day, I had granted myself further permission to use YouTube to listen to music and watch one video per day. The number of videos I am now allowed to watch is as many as I want because I broke the rule many times. So, yes, the rules of this experiment can be described as a patchwork.

My sister suggested that the experiment would have been better if the rule prevented me from using the internet.  I do not know how I could have survived that. Although I tried to circumvent the rules through YouTube, she admitted that I did well because not once did I try to use Facebook or Whatsapp. This leads on to the question of how I communicated with friends during this period. I had a video call with a friend using my sisters phone- she called and we had a lot to talk about. Then for important questions or directions, I sent about three emails out to friends who were understanding. I suppose with me, they will never be surprised because I am always up to one thing or the other.

This experiment has been very insightful. It has forced me to reflect on my attachment and find alternative ways of entertaining myself. I had this urge to take pictures of the food I made and I wondered who I was taking the pictures for. When we had dinner, I was engaging more because I was not on my phone but was on my laptop. I never thought my attachment was this bad until I took my phone away. We live in a very lonely world and we do not realise this until we stop and pause only to find that our best friend is our phone. Coming from a girl who did not use a phone until age 14, the attachment which I have created in seven years is saddening.  I am thinking, going forward, I will have a day in each month called the ‘phone-off day’. I will report on my progress at the end of 2019 insha Allah. I doubt I can survive a laptop-off day which is a problem for another day.

Another one of the things that I have been working on is not purchasing fast food from McDonalds, KFC or Burger King. I find that it is very easy for me at 5pm, having had nothing to eat all day to settle for a McChicken sandwich instead of a nutritious meal. I have not purchased anything in McDonalds for over three months and I am very proud.

I cannot wait to get my phone back at 00:00! Let me know if there are any experiments you want to try in the year.


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