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Lost Without a Phone

by Weronika Pukrop

Digital detox is a nice concept, but what’s the reality behind it? Personal confessions of 2 weeks without a phone revealing just how much we are addicted to our smartphones, surprising outcomes and what has changed

I was always convinced that I am, in fact, not addicted to my phone. Was I using it constantly? Well, yes. But I always thought I could easily live without it if I wanted to, at least for some time. This was a nice theory that, when put into practice, proved that I was wrong.

I’ve thought of having a digital detox before, but there was always an excuse not to do it. The sole thought that I would be completely fine without my digital tools was comforting enough and I never actually acted on it. Until life decided to take the matter in its own hands.

My smartphone got stolen exactly two weeks ago. First reaction? Panic, of course. The horrid feeling that someone actually stole from me, someone else is in possession of my… everything. That’s right. I realized that my whole life is on my phone. Everything that I did or own is at the fingertips of some stranger (a stranger with questionable morals). My credit cards (the blessing of apple pay), embarrassing pictures (poor thief has probably never seen this many selfies), passwords… I literally felt like my whole privacy had been invaded and exposed. After the initial panic I calmed down, changed all the passwords, blocked accounts, erased the contents of my phone from my laptop (thank you technology!) and, knowing that now no one would access all my precious content, I relaxed. But then, another wave of panic came. I don’t have a phone. I repeat, I do not have a phone. What now?

Of course, I started maniacally browsing the web to order a new one. Without giving it much thought, I ordered a phone immediately. The most important thing was to have it as soon as possible. But again, life took its own toll and due to the complications with the order and delivery, it’s been two weeks without a phone for me and I can now confidently say: I am indeed incredibly addicted to my phone. More than I could’ve imagined.

It’s not that I miss social media – after all, I can check almost everything on my laptop. I do miss the experience though. It’s not quite the same thrill to check Instagram on the screen of your computer. There is something about scrolling a much smaller screen with your thumb that gives the entire experience its very purpose. I used to check Instagram at least 10 times a day, spending on average one or two hours just mindlessly looking at the feed. Now, after few minutes of ‘scrolling’, I give up. It’s simply not the same. Watching stories on a laptop? It just feels weird.

I can still access Messenger and talk to my friends and family, but here comes another problem: Lack of notifications. How on earth am I supposed to remember to message someone if I don’t get a friendly reminder on the screen? Now I have to put extra effort and open the web page to check if I got any messages. How did we remember to do things before smartphones?

I have a habit of checking my phone first thing in the morning. I wake up and before I can properly open my eyes I reach for my phone to check notifications, as if I suddenly became very popular overnight. Each morning I spend at least 15 minutes on checking emails, social media, weather, news. It’s been two weeks and still every morning I reach out to my night stand, only to find an empty surface and the disappointment flows all over me. So instead, I lay in bed, stare at my ceiling and eventually grumpily stumble out of bed, deprived of my morning 15 minute lay in.

Not having my phone feels like missing a limb. Yes, you read that correctly. My arm hasn’t quite gotten used to the fact that there is nothing to reach for every few minutes. I catch myself checking my pockets, looking for my phone at my desk or in my bag. My arm has developed a reflex of reaching for my phone and when it’s not there, it honestly feels like a part of me is missing. You know when you leave your house and you get a feeling that you forgot something? I now constantly feel like that.

Apart from the obvious usage of smartphone, whether it is for social media or to communicate with others, I apparently used my phone for much more than I have realized. I made a good-looking dinner – oh, but I can’t take a picture of it! Checking the time has never been so complicated before. Thinking of a different way of setting an alarm in the morning was another puzzle to solve. I can’t mark that I read a book on my Goodreads App. I can’t document a good hair day. I actually started to miss Siri.

If you expected for me to say in a conclusion that I learned how to live phone-free and I appreciated this forced digital detox and am now a new human who doesn’t need an iPhone to survive, I am going to disappoint you. I impatiently check my phone order status every 5 minutes, my thumb still itches to scroll or type and I feel detached. Is it because of Corona and the fact that the only link now to the outside world is this little device that keeps me updated and occupied? Or is it just pure addiction? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that I’ve had enough of smartphone detox for a lifetime.

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