So a couple weeks ago now I was in the downtown Starbucks nearest to me where I go once a week or so to work (I work from home, and every now and then a girl just has to get out of the house for her own sanity).
I ordered my chai, busted out the laptop and was working away with my headphones on when a group of girls sat down at the long table next to me.
They were younger than the usual crowd here and if I had to guess, I’d say they were juniors or seniors over from the nearest high school on their lunch break. Mostly I come here to work, but I also come here to people-watch and I couldn’t help but notice something interesting about their little foursome.
All four of them were sat together, sipping their frappuccinos, and all four of them were sitting in silence, typing and scrolling on their iPhones.
But wait, you say, this isn’t interesting. This is completely typical behaviour. I mean, have you ever even seen a teenager before? They practically come with phones equipped.
Yeah, yeah. I realize this but the thing is, I don’t have a phone. I know, it’s a bit hard to believe considering I fall into the 18-30 category myself. But ever since parting with my own phone I notice just how much time people are spending on theirs, how much their phone shapes their behaviour, hell, shapes their whole lives.
Now I’m going to do my best not to go on a holier-than-thou tirade here, because I do think that technology is incredibly valuable and there are a lot of great things you can do with a phone (like run a whole business). But I do want to share with you why it’s not for me, why exactly I parted with my phone and how my life has changed since (for better or worse).
We’ll start with the basics. I know phone plans here in Canada— especially ones with data— can get pretty pricey. I remember years ago I had a phone with Rogers and the ‘My 5’ plan and not only was it roughly $50 a month, but I overshot my plan every single month and ended up paying more like $70 a month. Now to me this already seems like way too much money, but I know there are tons of people out there with high data usage that pay even more.
But let’s say we spend $70 a month on our phone. That’s $840 every year.
That’s enough to do any of the following:
- Get and take very good care of a dog (woof)
- Go on a reasonably nice trip every couple of years
- Buy a used car in 5-7 years
- Buy 1.66 books every single week
- A short vacay at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios
- And nearly enough to have a wedding (we did ours for about $1000)
What do you value? Maybe it really is having the ability to be connected whenever and wherever you are. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe there are things you value way more, things you wish you could afford, but haven’t had the financial flexibility to afford because you’ve been paying a whopping phone bill.
2. I have better concentration
When I had a phone, I was constantly here and there, working away at one thing, but checking my phone every few minutes or sitting in anticipation of receiving a text from some cute guy. If you have your own phone, you’re definitely familiar with this. I was never able to fully focus on any one thing without being distracted every few minutes or so by my phone vibrating (or by the mysterious Phantom Vibration).
Pretty much all the science these days says that we suck at multitasking, and so when our attention is being pulled elsewhere— like by a stream of notifications— we’re not our most productive, and the work that we are doing sure isn’t our best work. When I want to get the most out of my time I use the Pomodoro method, and stopping to fiddle with my phone often would completely can my efforts.
3. I have better connections
I’m not going to judge the friendship of those four girls, but I think back to my own relationships when I had a phone and think of what my interactions with friends were like.
Could you imagine meeting up with a friend for some quality time and having them staring at their phone the whole time, especially if it’s at a time when you really need them? Recent studies have shown that simply the presence of a phone on the table— not even in your hand— will lower the quality of your in-person conversations.
“Even without active use, the presence of mobile technologies has the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections. Individuals are more likely to miss subtle cues, facial expressions, and changes in the tone of their conversation partner’s voice, and have less eye contact.”
4. I have more time
For me, this is probably the biggest one.
A few weeks ago, I saw a thread in a Facebook group were some of the members were sharing their experiences with an app that tracks your usage on your smartphone, in minutes. I think everyone was equally horrified to see that they were spending hours—hours— a day on their phone, mostly on Facebook or Instagram or Safari.
Every single day, hours were slipping away with disengaged, mindless scrolling— and none of these people were saying that it was time well spent. They were all stunned, disappointed, embarrassed, and disappointed with themselves. They were saying they needed to change that, they felt addicted, they felt helpless.
A little dramatic, I know, but I get that feeling. It happens to me even just on my laptop during my workday (in fact, I’m doing it right now as I try to type up this article. For shame). I’ll feel a little lonely and lose an hour popping between Facebook and email accounts, looking for that little high you get from seeing a new message or a new notification. For me, not having a phone is my way of reducing the amount of lost time in my life. There are so many things I would rather be doing, and I feel certain that if you were to ask yourself the same, you would also agree that there are ways you would rather be spending your time than scrolling social media.
When I catch myself procrastinating in this way, I stop myself and either a) get back on track with work or b) procrastinate in a more constructive way. I like to:
- Make a snack
- Use my indoor bicycle
A little food for thought: we (millennials) apparently check our phones 74 times a day, spending nearly 5 hours a day on our phones (but don't take my word for it— that's just a statistic I found on the internet). That’s 76 DAYS a year. Suck on that one for a while.
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Aaaand I'm curious: what's your relationship with your phone like? Is it holding you back? Let me know in the comments!
p.s. Feeling a little hooked on social media? >> 5 Ways to Get Connected Without Social Media