A 24 Hour Smartphone Detox

Take a moment and think about all the things you use your smartphone for during a normal day in Claremont. Now imagine something catastrophic happens, and suddenly it’s gone. Has the panic set in yet? Is your heart palpitating with fear that you’ll miss important information or an invitation? You might be embarrassed to admit it (I was!), but most of us are entirely too dependent on our smartphones. To prove this point, I decided to turn off my iPhone for 24 hours, beginning the moment I went to bed on Sunday night. Before I share with you the survival skills I learned, I need to set the stage for my experiment. When I proposed this idea to my editors, the fear in their eyes was apparent; one even said, “I don’t want you to fail a class just for an article!” This in itself is a testament to the importance we place on our smartphones and the ability to receive text messages and emails and check the Internet anywhere, at any moment. Confident that I would not fail a class, lose my job, or in any other way detrimentally alter my future simply by turning off my phone for a day, I began my experiment.

The last thing I did before shutting myself off from the world of communication was to text my mom and inform her of my plan, just to ensure than if any emergencies were to occur, she would know to reach me by email. Having put into place this safety net, I intended to shut my phone down for good, but stumbled upon my first problem of “phonlessness”: I don’t have an alarm clock. How was I supposed to wake up in time to begin my day? I know there is a way to set an alarm on my computer, but somewhere between being too tired to figure out how and not trusting a new system, I gave in and decided to use the alarm clock on my phone, promising myself that I would turn it on airplane and “do not disturb” mode and turn it off as soon as it woke me up in the morning.

I followed through with this promise and began my day of phoneless isolation, which started with me hunting through my drawers to find a watch. How many of us actually wear a watch anymore? I realized that without my phone, I had no way of keeping track of time unless I was sitting in a classroom or in front of my computer. This was undeniably one of the most bothersome things I dealt with all day.

The next moment in which I truly missed my phone was when I sat down to eat breakfast. I usually enjoy catching up on the day’s news while eating my morning yogurt, but today, I was forced to drag around with me and use my computer instead of my iPhone. While this obviously was not the end of the world, it was a hindrance I am not used to.

My morning was filled with classes in which I usually don’t use my phone anyway, but I did find that I arrived at my second class of the day much more quickly without being delayed by reading emails and checking Facebook on the walk from Kravis to Bauer.

When lunchtime came around, I realized I had cheated a bit in that I had already made plans to meet up with a friend for lunch the night before. Without my phone, I would have been unable to do this. However, I dearly missed having the option to text this friend when she was not in front of the dining hall at our decided-upon time. She arrived a minute or two later, but the situation brought up an important point. What did people used to do if others didn’t show up when they were supposed to? They had no way of knowing if their friend was blowing them off, dying of some awful illness, or only late.

The next time I genuinely needed my phone was at work, where I needed to make a phone call and ended up having to borrow my co-worker’s phone. Other than a few, specific instances like this, I realized throughout the day that I didn’t actually need to have it with me.

Some people who have done this same experiment in their own lives found that they felt freer and more attentive to the world around them without their smartphones constantly connecting them to the rest of humanity, but personally all I felt was a slight sense of panic that slowly grew throughout the day. Yes, I was able to finish more of my reading in a shorter amount of time and I guess I chatted more with the people around me instead of checking Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and USAToday, but I wouldn’t trade that for the constant fear of misinformation I experienced, any day. It probably didn’t help that I conducted this experiment the day Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and two boys from my high school went missing, but even without these pressing news events, I believe I still would have felt like I was missing out on something throughout the day, and that’s what disturbs me a little bit.

We are so dependent on our smartphones that it can cause some of us to physically show signs of anxiousness and fear when we think of shutting them off for 24 hours. The epidemic is so widespread that you can go into any restaurant and easily find two people who are supposed to be enjoying a meal together but instead are both tapping away on their phones. Children of this generation have never known a time when they were forced to actually talk to their friends in person, and psychologists and parents alike have voiced fears that they won’t know how to communicate with others in person when they are forced to grow up and join the workforce.

However, these fears and disturbances aside, it is clear that times have changed so much that it is almost necessary for everyone, especially college students, to have a smartphone. The need to be constantly in contact with others has changed the way we live, and for many of us it is unfathomable to think of a time when we couldn’t check our email or look up some odd fact at a moment’s notice. This is the direction in which society is moving, and it cannot be stopped, so why not give in and join it? I don’t see anything wrong with my dependence on my iPhone, and I’m sure I’m not the only one; it’s simply a way of life for today’s college student. Overall, my experiment taught me one thing in particular: to guard my smartphone with my life because while it's entirely possible for me to go on with my life without it, I'd rather not.