3.30 pm Wednesday - My phone was at a point that it was burning my hands and beyond repair, so I took it to the store, upgraded and left it overnight to transfer files. I had no idea of the impact that 24 hrs without a phone would bring – This was my experience and something for us all to think about.
First stop 4.30 pm - A waiting room full of people and as I waited to get called for my appointment, I realised I had a sense of social anxiety about me - not knowing where to look, what to do with my hands and mind being free. I caught myself listening to my mind chatter and it went something like this “I need to contact all these people and follow up on appointments, conversations, oh what’s for dinner- I like her top- Great pairing of colours! Wow… I noticed there was a sense of frustration at not being able to achieve an “instant” response. Flip side I was told my appointment was running 20 minutes late so I decided to ask for a piece of paper and a pen and download my thoughts and created a to-do’s list.
From that point I made a conscious decision that the next 24 hrs was me connecting with my inner child from the 1990's- the one who walked everywhere, knew all her friend's numbers, was resilient enough to sit comfortably being alone in public and connect with people- “I got this” I told myself.
6 pm- So the last conversation I had with my friend before I dropped my phone off was "See you at dinner tonight" not knowing whether she might be stuck in traffic or cancelling plans – I just went at our agreed time and waited. Twenty-five minutes passed, I had enjoyed a glass of wine and finished it, read the menu back to front and knew all the waiters in the restaurant and watched the behavioural cues of most restaurant guests.
So 90’s Connie got thinking…What would I have done back in the day…
I decided to build a conversation with the wait staff - small talk – remember that? All of a sudden, I had made new connections, and the time flew. Ends up, I went to primary school with one of their friends! My friend was 30 minutes late stuck in traffic and looking for a park- But I survived.
10 pm I'm home – Then it dawns on me, how am I going to wake up without an alarm? It was a bit drastic to drive to a 24 hr KMART for this! What would Bear Grills have done? And it came to me leave every window blind open and let the light and chirping birds wake me – brilliant!
5.05 am Thursday I was eyes "wide open" awake (Thank you microwave for the time) I walked my dogs, I went to a gym class and came home with plenty of time to eat, meditate, market shop and prepare my day to head into work. The morning just kept giving. If I was in doubt of time, I just asked a stranger- riveting stuff! I’m sure Bear Grills would have looked at the sun, but I'm not there yet.
10 am I had a meeting and had to drive with a rough idea of the location. I left an hour early just like the good old days when we used a Melway’s and parked by the side of the road. I decided that if I became lost, I would ask passers-by. Again I was able to get to know people, I learned some back streets and was only 5 minutes late for the meetings, It’s also a great conversation starter!
I would catch myself thinking the following thoughts on the ride over– I only know mum/dad's mobile and my 93 years old grandmothers home number, beyond that, how do I connect with the world? Would I ever see my friends again? I don't know where half of them live? We’re these the times you'd hope to bump into them on the street and organise a catch up? How would I have advertised my business and who would have liked it? I wondered is this a good thing that technology is so advanced, fast paced and instant- or are we losing touch with a present, centred state of being and will it become obsolete as we progress away from what we have within us?
So what have I learned...
Mostly, I became aware of how profoundly uncomfortable I was with stillness of doing nothing. For years, I’ve used my phone every time I’ve had a spare moment in an elevator or on public transport. I would listen to podcasts and write emails at any free moment. This was life and my phone was my life line! Learning to consciously choose to be away from your phone is difficult- But habits can be changed in 21 days- There is hope yet! As a single woman, It’s actually a great way to meet people again- start a conversation and learn to get comfortable with it.
We have become a society that are all so attached to our phones (Just sit on public transport for 30 minutes and try to spot someone without one) we forget how to be away from them and actually don’t use our working memory as much as we could be. Try and remember a few mobile numbers over the next week.
Technology has taken away the simple techniques we all used to find our way around and everything dings or gives you notifications. Be open to learning what is around you, your surroundings, look up and out of your workplace, window and wherever your walking and take it all in. Being grounded and mindful is a step in the right direction to healthy phone use.
So if you want to relearn how to stimulate the brain again bring a notepad with you and start writing more, ditch the phone for an hr or two or read that book you have always wanted to get into or join a local club or group- Walk in and have a chat- It is all within reach, not just email.
Ditch the apps that contribute to negative habits or turn your notifications off for an hr or two, you can become so drawn to hrs of endless searching. What did you actually achieve?
I was so calm without my phone once I decided I could be without technology and reminding myself to be adventurous and take me time back.
The NEW YORK TIMES found – “Digital wellness is a budding industry these days, with loads of self-help gurus offering miracle cures for screen addiction. Some of those solutions involve new devices — such as the “Light Phone,” a device with an extremely limited feature set that is meant to wean users off time-sucking apps. Others focus on cutting out screens entirely for weeks on end. You can now buy $299 “digital detox” packages at luxury hotels or join the “digital sabbath” movement, whose adherents vow to spend one day a week using no technology at all.
It sounds extreme, but I dare you to try it. Free yourself from the mind fog, turn your phone on silent or stop notifications at certain times, connect with strangers and even go the 24 hr distance. You might learn more about yourself that you probably weren't aware.
Ps, the article was all written on a napkin while I waited for my morning coffee x
Connie Boglis is a counsellor in Melbourne with over 15 years’ experience and recently written her first children's book "Once Upon a Feeling" to help them express their emotions with the adults in their lives.