A 10 Month Social Experiment: What I Gained When I Lost My Phone

Many thought I was credulous to think that in 2014 I could live without a cell phone. Mine was a fluke accident, that morphed into a social experiment. Yet despite my conscious choice, the fact that I lacked the most idolized technological device was nonetheless uncouth. I was pitied mostly. Considered economically disadvantaged even, because I was lacking this particular material thing. Yet it was those around me, those who were completely consumed by their phones, that I eventually pitied. Always shrouded in urgency around the phone. Always searching for their phone, only to look at it for the umpteenth time and see the most dreaded icon; the battery charge status.

"Shit, my phone's dying!"

It seemed they too would die, if they didn't charge up soon.

I really began to understand why people referred to cell phones as their lifeline. It was a sort of functional synchronization. And the stakes were high. It cost somewhere in the ballpark of emotional stability and independence. I was looking in the mirror for the first time. I could now see how I too, had been emotionally synced to this gadget. I began to look at our relationship or dependency on cell phones differently, as my perspective was now shifted merely by chance. It was not long before I buried the desire to get my water damaged phone fixed, completely unsure of when I'd dig that old habit back up.

With the absence of my phone I was no longer able to grab it every few minutes to text, check email or scroll through social media. I quickly learned a thing or two about being present in the company of others and the company of myself. A certain degree of social independence subbed a slot previously held by a cell phone. In the beginning there was silence and subtle yet unsettling awkwardness. I didn't have a phone to cradle in my hands and in exchange offer me a false sense of comfort; but comfort nonetheless. I had to rely on my memory which felt outdated sadly. I had to remember phone numbers, addresses and directions even. I couldn't call someone up to keep me company so that I didn't appear 'alone' while waiting on the train. I was forced to be. And as anxious as it made me feel initially, just being eventually became enough. I began to notice the faintest things like how the breeze blew my clothes or how the sun felt on my skin. I started to revel in all the little things, whose appreciation went previously unnoticed when I had a phone.

Even more interesting than what I noticed about my own changing behavior was that of those around me. People were much more reliable. I noticed when meeting anyone they would always be on time. The inability for people to rely on a text and say, "Hey I'm going to be late" indirectly forced them to be on time. My friends, family and even newly acquired associates were much more cognizant of being on their phones, simply because I didn't have mine. I also realized who really wanted to speak to me and have a conversation versus simply "keeping in touch" through trivial texts.

Certainly there were times in my 10 month stint without a phone, that I thought, "What the hell am I doing?" Like the couple of times I found myself scouring the earth for a pay phone, which proved a bit tricky to find unlike it's ubiquitous offspring. Or, when I'd get lost and actually need the help of GPS. But, mostly I was freed from the Impulsive Digital Isolationist Tendencies that plagued me before. I was free. I ended my social experiment a few weeks ago due to a prospective job. And, although I cringe sometimes when I hear my phone beep or ring in the company of others, I enjoy the sheer convenience of it. I do however swear on Apple to never become one of those I.D.I.O.T.s again.