If you’re not reading this on your cell phone, it is still probably within a foot of you.
I’m not passing judgement ‒ as I’m writing this, I’m habitually checking my phone to see if anyone has texted me (they haven’t).
But for 24 hours, I couldn’t do that. For a full day, I did my best to ditch all the technology in my life.
Full disclosure: This was a class assignment, not some yuppie test of self-purity. Nothing groundbreaking came from these 24 hours – I didn’t discover the solution to world peace or find a deeper meaning in life. But after not using my phone, laptop and most other technology for a day, I suggest you try and do the same.
At first, it was a little stressful. What if someone texted me? What if I got lost and couldn’t use Google Maps? What if I got into an awkward conversation and couldn’t pretend to get an urgent phone call?
But after getting over those early jitters, the one thing I actually felt was relief. It was nice to not feel obligated to check Snapchat every 15 minutes to see what was happening, idly stare at Facebook or kill time watching my favorite Netflix show.
Instead, I read a book. I actually read multiple books. Sure, one of them was for class, and John Rawls is no thriller. But I did some reading for fun, too. I took a nap. I explored a bit of D.C. with a friend.
I actually did more on my “lazy” Saturday than I usually do, which normally revolves around finding a TV show to watch and complaining about the New York Mets on Twitter.
That’s not to say I didn’t miss out on things when I briefly adopted the lifestyle of a Luddite. I missed listening to my podcasts as I walked around campus (and for what it’s worth, I see just as much value in a “Planet Money” episode as reading a hard copy of The New York Times, even if one requires using a phone).
I also missed a lot of people trying to get in touch with me. In those 24 hours, I missed two phone calls, eight texts and 109 emails, even after I warned my friends, family and coworkers that I would be off the grid.
And you can bet that as soon as I hit the 1,441st minute of my exile, I was right back on my phone, trying to catch up with everything I missed.
But for that day, ignorance was certainly bliss. I felt less stressed when I wasn’t attached at the hip to my phone ‒ literally ‒ and actually saw the world straight ahead, not at sideways glances up from my phone.
And while I’m probably not going to take another full day’s break from technology, there actually were some takeaways from the class assignment.
I made a new rule with a friend that we put our phones away when we’re eating so we actually talk to each other and can’t be preoccupied by social media.
The weekend after the assignment, I enjoyed a sunny and warm D.C. day, and besides the occasional time I’d dig into my pocket to take a photo, I enjoyed the great outdoors, sans phone.
So as we turn to fall, consider leaving your phone on your desk and your laptop powered off. The weather will be beautiful for the next few weeks, and will be even more so when you’re not tweeting about it and enjoying it instead.