I really hate cell phones. I hate how dependent we have become on these little personal computers that we carry around with us every day, and how distracted many of us get when using them.
I hate it when I see restaurant-goers buried in their cell phones when they should be enjoying a relaxing dinner experience that they are paying good money for. I hate watching people text while clumsily steering their cars, putting my life — and everybody’s life — at risk because that damn text evidently cannot wait. I hate it when that guy instantly grabs his cell phone after each and every set at the gym, completely unfocused and distracted from what he’s supposed to be doing.
As a society, we are becoming incredibly distracted by these devices. Our reality does not make sense unless we have our connection to the world at the ready nearly 100% of the time. Yes, I have personally watched people walk into objects on sidewalks because they were so focused on whatever’s going on inside their phone.
Why do we do this? Our social profiles need to tell people a carefully-crafted story about ourselves (more on this in a later post), so we post selfies and check-in at places that we go. We need to stay up-to-date on who’s saying what about us or the things that we believe in. We need to keep close tabs on our email on the off chance that somebody sends us something that is actually important.
But our addiction to cell phones is also very natural. The feeling that we get when somebody communicates with us is generally positive. We naturally desire communication. We enjoy learning new things. We want to feel engaged, connected and together with those around us.
And our cell phones provide an instantly-accessible solution to all of those things. Our friends are available literally at the touch of a button. We can command our phones to search for information just by speaking to it (“Call me sexy, Siri”). Cell phones represent instant gratification.
But if taken to the extreme, even what seems perfectly natural becomes problematic.
And it suddenly became real for me when I forgot my $600 cell phone one day – and I actually felt incomplete, like something was missing. I felt like I just misplaced my car keys. Honestly, I never used my phone all that often, but I was definitely guilty of checking that damn thing every time I got an email notification. I swear those notification sounds are an addition. I spent so much on that sucker, and I had to have it with me.
A few months ago, I realized that I suffered from a mild form of Mobile Device Addiction.
…and I needed to find a way to live without being tied to my phone
So, I tried an experiment. I downgraded my cell phone to the cheapest Android phone that Verizon supports. I also removed all email and social media from the phone — basically, I went full circle with this new phone — returning it back to just a cellular phone capable of sending and receiving text messages on a usable screen. It also lowered my bill because I switched to Verizon Edge.
Best. Decision. Ever.
Instantly, tether released. I’m no longer beholden to my phone like I was with my previous $600 device that I felt obligated to use because I spent so much for it. My friends all have nicer phones than me, but I also don’t care — not one single bit. It’s wonderful being the only person not monitoring their online persona every chance they get. Seriously, that feeling is uttering freeing.
Imagine leaving the house to go on a walk with your wife and dogs, forgetting your cell phone at home, and not caring. Like, not giving even the slightest crap that your connection to the world is sitting unused at home, doing nothing, lying dormant, leaving you to completely focus on what you’re actually doing at that moment. I haven’t missed my old phone for a second.
Honestly, not a shred of remorse for downgrading my cell phone experience back to something that would functionally resemble one of those flip phones that we thought were awesome back in the ’90s. I have found myself much more focused on the moment. Unless I get a phone call, my new phone never makes a sound. It remains quiet, lying in wait for someone to call me (and even then, half the time I don’t pick up because I don’t recognize the number).
This experiment was an epic success. It taught me that we humans really can separate ourselves from our cell phones and not miss a thing about life. In fact, I’m more focused than ever. That thing I carry around with me in my pocket is merely a device to verbally communicate with other human beings – that’s it. If I forget it, then I don’t communicate with those outside of my immediate perimeter.
I like it when life becomes super simple.
I am no longer carrying around an expensive device, whose power I probably never used a tenth of, for the sake of keeping up with the device wars of my circle of friends. They win. Now, I am completely focused on my life and doing what is in the best interest of my wife and I.
And it is one awesome feeling.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.