Life without a smartphone in 2021: 1 month later

I am one month into my life without a smartphone challenge. I am still alive and fully functioning. I’ve noticed a few benefits and limitations to living without a smartphone. In this listicle (i.e., an article formatted as a list), I will describe my key takeaways of life without a smartphone.

1. It feels good to disconnect.

Picture of a thumbs-up
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Mobile technology causes stress. A smartphone provides a constant stream of notifications. The persistent possibility of being summoned by a phone call causes anxiety. The always-on factor of being connected to others doesn’t allow us to turn off. For the past month, life without social media feeds and unexpected FaceTime calls has felt good. But the better part is life without the pressure to be constantly plugged in.

2. I miss the music

Picture of a smartphone in between a pair of headphones
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When Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone in 2007, he remarked how the device seamlessly allowed users to access their iPod on their phone. In fact, the iPod was a key app in the bottom app drawer, next to phone, mail, and Safari. Things have changed significantly in the mobile phone space since 2007. You can now add your own apps and reconfigure the organization of apps on your home page. For me, the power of the music player hasn’t change. My music apps are the best part of my smartphone. I miss them, and I want them back!

3. I don’t need a google review to make a decision

Picture of a person looking at reviews while standing on a city street
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It has been so much fun to go out and explore my city without relying on Google Maps to guide my adventures. Sure, I still search for directions before leaving the house, but I also encounter restaurants, shops, and breweries while I’m out by myself. Furthermore, I have began to ask others for directions. Just the other day, my partner and I were at Mojo Coffee Gallery in Northeast Minneapolis. I asked him a question about a nearby brewery. He began to search for the brewery on his phone. A lady popped out of her chair and leaned over to our table. She began to talk about a number of breweries in the neighborhood. She then apologized for overhearing our conversation, as if she was wrong for wanting to talk with strangers. This experience encouraged me to reflect on how smartphone culture has altered social norms. It’s no longer normal to talk to strangers about local neighborhood attractions or to ask for directions, even though a local will give much better recommendations than Google.

4. Transit is much easier to navigate with a smartphone app

Picture of a city bus
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Okay, Google Maps is unnecessary, but a transit app is critical to the modern city dweller. Without my Moovit app, I have no clue when my next bus is coming. I spend much more time waiting for the next bus compared to when I used smartphone apps to time my commute more accurately. Some stops have real-time displays that inform me of upcoming departures. But real-time stops mostly exist downtown. This isn’t all bad news. Life without a smartphone is life slowed down. It’s okay to sit and wait for the bus. The downtime is relaxing. But overall, my transit apps are missed.

5. E-mail and messaging apps are a waste of time

Picture of a smart phone with paper notification icons above
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Before I ditched my smartphone, I was most worried about disconnecting from my e-mail. I received e-mails from my second job directly to my smart phone. I was worried that I would miss a critical notification because I didn’t have my smart phone in my pocket. As it turns out, I’ve missed nothing. I don’t feel out of the loop from my messaging apps. I am still able to keep up with others on my laptop. My social time is now scheduled and more intentional than before. Instead of a numerous low-value messages sent and received throughout the day, I have meaningful conversation with others during focused time at my desk. In addition, I am able to focus more at my current job, while blogging, and during other leisure activities such as reading, walking, and exercising. I am able to focus more because I’m not as distracted by low-value notifications.

6. There’s nothing that I can’t do without my smartphone

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It may seem like the smartphone is required for accessing transportation, digital menus, currency transactions, social events, and many other life interactions. However, there are always multiple means of access for my daily interactions. I still access transportation, it’s just less convenient than before. When I go to a restaurant with a digital menu, I ask for the paper menu. I manage my money on my laptop. I still attend social events as I did before. Life without a smart phone is certainly slower, but still possible. If I ever encounter a space where a smartphone is necessary for participation, I will question the quality and sustainability of that space. If a smartphone is necessary to gain entry, do I really want to be a part of that space?

7. And when all is said and done, I will likely still return to my smartphone.

picture of a smart phone on a wooden desk with a ray of light illuminating the phone
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To me, it seems like the smartphone has added immense value to my life. At the same time, it has added a few issues to my life. The past 30 days have showed me a life without constant distraction. It is a life with more focus and intention. I feel more nimble. I navigate spaces more organically. I spend more time with my thoughts. My hands hurt less from tapping away on a phone all day! Most of all, I’ve learned what’s really important in my physical and digital life. When I return to my smartphone, I will install every music and transit app available. But I will abstain from social media, messaging apps, and e-mail. I may even uninstall my web browser. The smartphone truly enhances our world. We just need to turn down the noise and turn up the usefulness. 

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