Here's What Happened When I Gave Up My Phone for 5 Days

What's the longest you've gone without your phone recently?

For me, it was five hours, just the other night when I was making dinner and hanging out with my boyfriend. During that time, I completely forgot about its existence. That might seem like a long time, but it's honestly something I do quite often.


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Trust me, though, it wasn't always like that. Back in the day, I slept with my phone, would check it at least every five minutes and constantly held it in my hand. I was obsessed.

It wasn't until my senior year of college that I got a much-needed wake-up call. Even now, as I look back on the experience, I appreciate what it did for me.

My phone-free journey began on the first day of class when my professor was going through the syllabus. She told us that one of our assignments later on in the semester would require that we turn in our phones for five days. At the time, I thought to myself, Whatever, I can survive without my phone. It won't be a big deal. But a big deal it was.

Day 1

On the day we turned in our phones, I spent the whole class period (phone-free) feeling fine, but the second I stepped outside, I reached into my bag for what was no longer there. Whoops, guess I forgot I didn't have it! How am I going to meet up with my friends in the library? Where will they be sitting? Ugh, I'll have to walk around like a weirdo until I find them. Social anxiety, commence.


Day 2

On day two without my phone, I realized how much I really relied on it. For instance: maps. I used maps to get everywhere. Even places I already knew how to get to; I just liked to see how long it would take. But that evening, I had to go to an event in a part of town I'd never been to. So, I made the trek back to the library, printed out directions and felt like a fossil.


Day 3

Day three rolled through and guess what, it was Friday! I would usually make plans to hang out with all of my friends, but I had no idea how I was supposed to do that without a phone. Where's a carrier pigeon when you need one? I ended up cheating the system by using the iMessage app on my MacBook—yes, this was a new low, but I couldn't help myself.

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Day 4

Saturday was definitely the roughest. I had no classes and wanted to have fun, but how was I supposed to do that with no phone? I couldn't upload to my Insta story, text my crush or see what my friends were up to. Man, it would've sucked to be my parents at this age. Somehow, I managed to last the whole day and actually ended up feeling lighter, happier. I wasn't stressed about how many views or likes I received, or whether or not I was going to get a text back from the guy I was crushing on. I was simply in the moment and enjoying conversations with the people around me.


Day 5

Sunday wasn't too bad. I'd come to terms with the fact that I didn't have a phone, and I was actually doing okay—more than okay. There was a weight that'd been lifted. I didn't feel the need to check social media for once in my life. It was a weird but welcome feeling.

On Monday, I walked into class and got my phone back. I missed the little rascal. I noticed how little I was reaching for it now. While I spent a good 30 minutes checking social media when I first got it back (hey, my problem isn't gonna go away that quickly), I didn't have too much contact with it for the rest of the day. I'd learned that I could live without it.

That successful social experiment has stuck with me to this day, and I'm so glad I was forced to do it. It's truly changed me for the better and has me regularly questioning the relationship I have with my phone.

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Still questioning (and curious), I reached out to Dr. Rachel Levenson, PhD, about the obsessive relationships we have with our phones and the positive impact that disconnecting from our devices can have on our lives.

"Our phones have become the number one mechanism of distraction. Feel anxious? Scroll through Instagram. Conflicted about a decision? Consult Google. When we put our phones away, we are forced to sit with and eventually confront our emotions. Our feelings are evolutionary; we have them for a reason. Feelings are meant to be attended to. They can be used effectively to guide our thoughts and decisions. Our phones distract us from this important process.

Left without the flurry of social media, emails and texts that distract us, we see that difficult emotions WILL PASS. And by immersing in that experience, we learn that our emotions are not so scary."


Do you think you rely on your phone too much? Maybe you should try your own phone-free experiment.


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