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.
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.