By Carolyn Mathis
I wondered how addicted I was to my phone, and then I walked into Journalism 251.
As the the rest of the class filed in, Professor Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood began to handout small grey pouches with the word “Yondr” printed on them in lime green. Ackerman-Haywood told us we were going to be a part of a miniature experiment for our class to see what would happen if students couldn’t access their phone for a class period. She also told us we were to put our phones in these pouches. I did as I was told, but then, the pouch locked.
After our phones were locked away, sitting in the pouch, taunting us, we had to write down our initial reaction. All I could think and say was, “I don’t get it.” I didn’t understand what was going on. I came into class thinking we’d talk about news stories for the upcoming magazine. I didn’t know I’d be locking my phone away in the tiny prison while it sat on my desk. I didn’t like how it made me feel. I almost felt gross and that I wasn’t trusted enough to not have my phone be locked up.
What if there was an emergency I needed to attend to? It just didn’t seem fair to lock my phone up right in front of my face. I felt more distracted thinking about the phone being locked up than I would have been if it wasn’t.
As the class went on, my phone continued to look at me behind the grey walls of this unwelcomed pouch. I began to think of what it would actually be like to not have or use my phone.
I see students consistently on their phones – both in class and out of it. I proposed the idea to ask people around what they would do without their phone for a day. My idea backfired, and my editor-in-chief, Tatiana Diaz, asked me if I could go without my phone for a day. All eyes turned towards me sitting in the back of the class, and I responded with, “If it’s for the story, I’ll do it.”
If my strong reaction to my phone being locked away for 90 minutes was any indication, I could only imagine what a 24-hour period would do to me.
I needed to set some guidelines for how I would go about my day without a phone. Since I use my phone for an alarm, I decided I would turn my phone off after I turned my alarm off. I also would not use any social media on my computer to make it fair and true. Anything that I normally use my phone for during the day would be off limits.
I would turn my phone back on right before I went to bed. Since I normally go to bed between 11 p.m. and midnight, it seemed like a logical and fair time for the phone to come back on – mostly so it would be on to use for an alarm for the next day. I also allowed myself to have my phone with me for the day in case I ran into any emergencies, but it would stay off.
I would be documenting my daily progress via notepad and taking video on my computer.
Day 1: Tuesday, Oct. 16
The first day was a bit more challenging for external reasons other than my lack of a phone. My computer broke a few days before, so I could not video blog on this day. All my feelings and progress had to be written down.
My first alarm went off at 7 a.m., and I hit snooze until 7:44 a.m. I put my phone on airplane mode because I had to be out on assignment and needed my phone to record the interview. In airplane mode, I couldn’t receive any notifications or check any social media or messages due to no WiFi or data signal.
Waking myself up was really difficult because I usually spend the first hour or so of my morning using social media to wake up. I usually start with Twitter, then make my way over to Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Without this, I had to immediately wake up. It was awful, and the struggle was real.
In the morning, I tried looking at the weather on the computer I was borrowing for school from my dad. The internet in my apartment went out, so I didn’t have a way to check the day’s weather, and I don’t have cable or TV, which would tell me how to dress for the day.
My first class on Tuesdays is from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. I wanted to check my phone after class. I reached to get it out of my purse and realized there was no point – the phone was off. My interview for one of my story assignments was scheduled at 11:15 a.m. I walked to the Student Center and waited for my subject.
At 10:58 a.m., I wrote, “I feel weird sitting down and not doing anything. No phone and no computer. (I’m) feeling better writing my progress down so I look busy.” It felt weird to me watching students all around me on their phones, while i stared at nothing. I thought I looked weird to others without a phone in my hand and my face glued to it like everyone else. But was anyone else even looking at me? From 11:01 a.m to 11:07 a.m I counted seven people walking in the Student Center actively looking at their phones.
After my interview, I had to go to a computer lab since the laptop I was borrowing had died, and I neglected to bring the charger with me to school. I wrote up my story to fill some extra time until my next class started at 12:30 p.m. I got through my story and at 12:16 p.m., I officially turned my phone from airplane mode to off for the rest of the day and made my way to my next class.
I counted six of my classmates on their phones while waiting outside our classroom before the door was opened.
In my journalism class, we had to do man-on-the-street interviews for some in-class stories. Since I had just turned my phone off, I couldn’t turn it back on to go out and record these interviews. I didn’t want to turn my phone back on and put it in airplane mode in fear that I would be distracted by any notifications before the day was done. For the interviews, I had to borrow a voice recorder, and it actually worked really well. I was quite impressed.
After class, I had to make my way to Woodland Mall to bring my computer to the Apple store to be fixed. I’m not familiar with how to get to Woodland since I don’t usually shop there. I wrote down the address earlier in the day and plugged it into my GPS which is in my car and not on my phone.
It turns out I entered the wrong address and ended up getting lost. Thankfully, I eventually found my way to the mall. Getting home was much easier.
When I got home from the mall, I took a short nap and began studying afterwards. I studied for a test I had the next day up until I went to bed. When I was headed to bed, I turned my phone on and went to sleep.
Days 2 & 3:
I decided to go without my phone for two additional days. I don’t think I would have gotten an accurate take away if I had gone just one day without my phone. Each day without my phone proved less challenging than the one before. I knew what to expect each day, and the days became more normal to me.
I had adapted to the challenge and accepted that my days would not be totally consumed by my phone. I was able to focus and get so many things done without the distractions. There were still moments, of course where I wanted to spend time texting friend or checking twitter; but my FOMO (fear of missing out) never got the best of me, and my phone remained off.
Conclusion/final take away:
Overall, I anticipated the take away to be more inspiring than what it actually did for me. I did, however, realize that putting my phone away allowed me to stay focussed on whatever tasks I was doing. If I had just turned my phone off and did my work, I think I still would’ve been tempted to cave and check my phone. Doing the assignment forced me to actually find something to do that wasn’t sitting on my phone. For me, that meant getting my work and homework done.
For my friends and family, they weren’t too annoyed to be missing me for a day, or three. I told my parents and my roomate when I would be doing my no phone days, so they knew trying to reach me wouldn’t be easy. They are the people who I thought would really need to know if my phone was off. One family member was upset I didn’t respond to her text about her wedding dress coming in, but she wasn’t aware my phone was off. I heard her exciting news the next day.
I think it’s important that we take some time throughout our days and unplug. Even if it is just for an hour or so. Taking some time away from distractions to focus on yourself or your work can be sort of therapeutic. It was nice to not feel tied down to something all day. If I didn’t know I had anything to respond to, I didn’t constantly feel like I was missing something.