Last week, I decided to give up my mobile phone for seven days.
It all began with my frustration with phone calls. I can’t stand them.
There is hardly ever an instance in life, where a ringing phone is not an interruption. Whether that be interrupting a train of thought, work, an activity or a conversation.
It’s like running into someone on the street that you weren’t planning to. Everyone hates that. Most people divert their eyes and attempt to walk in the opposite direction. You weren’t prepared. You were content in your own little bubble.
When my phone would ring, I’d want to peg it at the nearest wall.
I spoke about my experiment on this weeks episode of Mamamia Outloud. Post continues after audio.
And then it was the buzzing. And the vibrating. And the notifications. The ‘bing’ that serves as a constant reminder we must be ‘on’ at all times.
It’s like Chinese Water Torture, where water is slowly, but consistently, dropped onto one’s forehead.
It is a recipe for madness.
The difference is of course – that we are addicted to this form of torture.
I would spend hours upon hours on my phone everyday. Probably more than the average millennial. I read, I text, I Snapchat, I set reminders and alarms, I stalk people that annoy me on Instagram. At 25-years-old, I do not know adulthood without a phone.
Me in Thailand, enjoying all the beautiful scenery. Image supplied.
In 2016, a phone is an extension of our being. We feel like we're missing an arm without it. We have become part machine, without so much as blinking an eyelid.
So, last week I had had enough. I do not recall signing a contract that said I must be in possession of a phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I decided that this 129 gram computer in my back pocket, no bigger than the size of my hand, was a goddamn dictator. It never sought permission to overtake my life. It was an unwelcome intrusion - and I was ready to take my power back.
The first day was hell. HELL. I was like a heroin addict in withdrawal. I sat on the bus, grumpy, trying to come up with ideas for our morning meeting. Men and women around me learnt what was happening thousands of kilometers away, consuming ideas from all over the world with the effortless scroll of a thumb. All that was happening in my world was that the smelly man opposite me on the bus kept trying to inconspicuously pick his nose and then wipe it on the window. I felt uninspired.
"I was ready to take my power back." Image via iStock.
The next day was similar. The person next to me at work kept checking their phone and giggling, and I longed for that shot of serotonin. My mind had not transformed into the unrestrained creative oasis I had hoped for. To be honest, the lack of input had left me blank.
I became restless, and bit my nails with unprecedented intensity. I felt lonely and detached.
I did start to notice one positive though.
It usually takes me at least an hour to fall asleep. But the past few nights, I realised it had been virtually instantaneous. My mind wasn't buzzing when I got into bed. My heart wasn't beating out of my chest. I wasn't tossing and turning.
By mid week - things changed.
I felt lighter (literally and figuratively). As cliche and self-helpy as this sounds, I felt like I had found peace.
Me pretending to 'stop and smell the roses'. Note: I could not find any roses. Image supplied.
I was more mindful, and suddenly my mind was able to enter the state of flow it had been craving. In an environment where we are being constantly interrupted, pulled to 'check' emails and Facebook and messages, I think many of us have forgotten what that feels like.
On Thursday night I decided to go to the movies with a friend, which brought about an epiphany.
Usually when we organise to hang out with someone it goes a little something like this:
"We should go to the movies tonight."
"Yeah sure, what time?"
"Just call me when you finish work."
"What should we do for food?"
"Hey, running late, only just walked out of work."
"Okay, how about I pick you up in half on hour?"
"Okay just call me when you're close."
"Got caught in traffic, what movie should we see?"
Since the advent of mobile phones we have completely lost the ability to make a f**king PLAN and stick to it.
By the time 54 text messages have been exchanged my social energy is DEPLETE. I'm done. Organising something has become a distressing ordeal, and by the time we actually catch up, we're sick of each other.
So many text messages to make it to this point. Image supplied.
For the first time in years, we developed a plan and stuck to it. And I enjoyed my friends' company more because of it.
But the life-changing epiphany didn't come until the final days of the experiment.
Walking to a friend's house one night, without a podcast or phone call to distract me, I was left with nothing but my own thoughts.
It struck me that culturally we are terrified of boredom. We hate having nothing to do. But why?
On that walk, I felt nostalgia. I felt pain. I felt sadness and loss and fear and regret.
And it was beautiful.
My phone had become a mood stabiliser. Anytime I bordered on feeling something uncomfortable or unpleasant, I reached for it. The 129 gram computer was numbing me from experiencing the spectrum of human emotion.
But that night I felt everything. And it is impossible to feel real gratitude, hope and happiness, if we don't allow ourselves to fully embrace the opposite. Because that is what makes us human.
I'm not going to pretend like I didn't kiss my phone and jump up and down when I got my phone back, mainly because there is footage of it in the video above. Like most things, mobile phones are not 'all good' or 'all bad'. And really, that isn't the question.
But it is time that we problematise and deconstruct the pocket-sized machine that consumes so much of our lives.
Because when we take a moment, and look up from our laps, we might find that what's in front of us is far, far more interesting.
Could you do it?