Each year, we become a little more dependent on our mobile phones. Although we still call them phones, for most people they are now much more. These devices would still be carried everywhere even without the telephone feature.
We can use these devices to send and receive (e)mail and messages, for directions, for choosing a restaurant or booking a hotel, for reading the news, or as a games console. It’s not a cell phone, it’s an “everything-device”, a hyperconnected mobile super-computer which fits in a pocket or bag.
These everything-devices are so useful, that we take them everywhere. This is understandable: in so many ways they make our lives easier.
Could you survive without a phone?
There are still people who don’t own a phone, or who use their phone primarily as a phone and not an everything-device. Such people are increasingly rare, and it feels like as a society we are now at a point where every individual is expected to own a phone.
Living without a phone is possible, but it feels a bit like going to live as a hermit in the mountains. It’s not something most of us would seriously consider even if we might occasionally dream of it.
How about for a few hours?
Here’s something more realistic you can consider: sometimes, when you’re going out and automatically reach for your phone: stop and leave it. Yes, leave your phone at home.
Here’s four reasons why you should leave your phone at home:
1. You don’t need it
“Yes I do” I hear you say. You’re right: sometimes you do need it, or it is at least very useful. In those cases, take your phone. But at least ask yourself if you need it before you automatically take it out with you.
Start small: it might just be a matter of going to the local shop without your phone. This small step can feel liberating: you are no longer glued to your device!
2. Reduce stress
Seemingly constant notifications on your phone can be stressful. Sometimes even the thought that you might get a notification can cause stress. If your feeling like this, perhaps you need to disconnect – a digital detox.
An easy way to do this is to leave your phone at home. Go for a walk in your local park without your phone: you’ll be disconnected and have more time to look around at the grass and trees, which is also great for your mental health.
3. Be more present
Whilst you’re using your phone, your attention is no longer on your environment. Sometimes this is OK: for example, a little escapism whilst listening to an audio novel is surely not a bad thing!
Other times your device can distract from spending quality time with others. When you have a habit of being constantly online via your device, it’s easy to allow this habit to disrupt social occasions. You may feel the urge to check for new messages, or to look up a fact, or to show a photo or video to your friend. None of this is truly necessary.
If you find yourself regularly starting to have three way conversations between you, your friend, and your device, then perhaps you need to break these habits. A good way to do this can be to not even take your device out with you. If you agree a place to meet in advance, you don’t need your phone. By practising this occasionally your can re-socialise yourself – so that you can be fully present with your loved ones.
4. Become more aware of your dependence on technology
Being dependent on technology isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Humans and technology have always gone hand-in-hand: this is what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
However, as humans (not zombies), it is important to be aware of how, and how much, we are dependent on technology. When we carry a device and are constantly online, we can become so reactive that we lose this self-awareness. When we take a break, we can re-gain that awareness.
When you leave your phone at home, you’ll start to notice all the times you habitually want to check it. Occasionally you might miss something important: but mostly you’ll find your fear of missing out was just a fear, without substance.
Leaving your phone at home isn’t always sensible.
More often than not, I do take my phone out with me. But recognising the addictive nature of this everything-device, I see that it’s important to have the freedom to go outside without it.
I also practice going without by turning my phone off at night, certainly whilst sleeping, but sometimes earlier in the evening too so I can have a relaxing tech-free evening.