Smartphones discourage smart living


Today, our phones have become a lot more than a mere means of communication. They can act as a pocket-sized container of our entire lives. Photo by Megan Winkle.

Some weeks ago, I attended a birthday party and at one point found myself sitting at a table full of people I had never spoken to in my life.


By the extremely awkward silence that had wedged itself between the cracks of a dying conversation, it was obvious we were all strangers. At that point, I went on autopilot and fell back on my first instinct: I pulled my phone out from my back pocket, prepared to sidestep further conversation and check my feed on every single social media app I owned.


Unfortunately, two other people did the exact thing, at the exact same time. I thought the table had reached maximum awkwardness levels, but really, that was the nail in the coffin.


Today, our phones have become a lot more than a mere means of communication. Instead, I have taken to thinking of them as a pocket-sized container of our entire lives. If I handed you my phone and presented you with absolute access to every text, photo and application on it for 10 minutes, you would learn a great deal about me.


The fact of the matter is, the modern phone no longer holds the same capacity, purpose nor usage as that of a ‘traditional’ one. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is an interesting thing, and I wanted to explore the dynamics surrounding it.


For the week of Thanksgiving break, I decided to “de-smartify” my phone. In other words, I shaved my phone down to its most basic and fundamental operations: calling, texting and Internet access.


Having Internet access straddled the line for me, but I eventually accepted that it was virtually impossible to completely disconnect, between my responsibilities as a journalist, completing schoolwork and commitments to personal projects. Everything else, however, was fair game: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Spotify, Pinterest and every other non-school app had to go.


So how was my break?


Surprisingly, amazing.


The first day or so was an adjustment period—on several occasions, I found myself unconsciously unlocking my phone and wanting to aimlessly scroll through Twitter, see my friends’ Snapchat stories or check how many likes a picture on my Instagram had gotten, before realizing I had uninstalled the app.


While I do sustain an active and healthy life, I would be lying if I said apps like Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter didn’t play a large part in my daily life—more often than not, I check my accounts first thing in the morning and just before I go to bed. As a result, the abrupt absence of my social media accounts felt particularly prominent.


Within just days, however, I had adjusted. The time I typically spent on my phone was now redirected towards completing my schoolwork early or working on my writing projects, and most importantly, I was happy. I felt more relieved and relaxed that ever, knowing the first thing I would do when I woke up was stretch and make myself cereal, not spend 30 minutes laying in bed squinting at a screen.


I did not realize how much permission I had given my phone to waste my time, nor did I realize how dependent I was on social media to make the hours fly by.


In conclusion, for those interested in possible doing the same thing: do it. I couldn’t recommend it more.


Despite being disconnected and without what I considered the “essential” functions of my phone, I had a perfectly fine break. In fact, I will be keeping my phone more or less the way it is now, de-smartified and distraction-free, with only a few exceptions. I will be re-downloading Spotify and Kindle, for example, which I do not overuse to begin with, and actually help in fostering my learning.


Otherwise, I am saying goodbye to my other apps for an interminable time period – and I advise you to consider doing the same.


What can I say? Stretches and cereal are just too good.