Last spring, our family participated in Television Turn Off week. I thought I’d never hear the end of it from the kids, who were not only addicted to iCarly and Spongebob, but also video games on the Xbox and Wii (which were also off-limits, since they can only be used through the television). The first two days of it were rough, but then they got used to the idea and found other things to do. While we didn’t decide to cut the boob tube out of our lives forever or anything radical like that, it did open our eyes to the possibility of cutting down on TV-time, and we did, at least for a while. I’m looking forward to this April, when we’ll do it again.
Anyway, over the kids’ Christmas break, they noticed how much I depend on my smartphone. Periodically throughout the day, I tend to check emails, text, check my calendar, update my Facebook status, and play Words With Friends (okay, and occasionally Angry Birds!)… basically, my phone and I are joined at the hip, and it irritates my children. They suggested a Smartphone Turn Off week this week. Well. I wasn’t able to commit to a whole week, but I did agree to a Smartphone Turn Off day. It took place last Monday, when the kids were off from school (because I knew they’d keep me accountable!), and it was harder than I thought it would be! Here were some of the highlights:
7:15 am I rolled over and looked at the clock. Ahh, it was so quiet; the kids were sleeping in on account of there being a day off from school. I nearly reached for my phone to see if… well, why do I check it upon waking up? Who is going to text me in the middle of the night? No one, that’s who. I ignored the urge to check it “just in case” and got out of bed.
8:30 am Having major withdrawals. I have a vague, nervous feeling, even though I know that it is absurd! I turn on the desktop computer to check my email, and am mildly annoyed that I have to wait for the computer to boot up, turn on my browser, type in the website. Who has time for this? I check (nothing of interest) and join the kids at the breakfast table, without my phone. I wonder how my Words With Friends games are going (I have several active games with various family members and friends), but since I can’t check, the kids and I discuss our day.
10:30 am We are en route to the park to meet friends. I automatically reach for my phone to check for texts that someone might not make it. No, I tell myself. You’ll find out when you get there.
12:00 noon All of us are pulling lunches and snacks out of coolers for ourselves and the kids. While we’re eating, I notice two of my friends texting. Rude, I think, and I’m startled at my own thought pattern. If today were any other day, I’d be doing the same thing! Remembering this, I long for my phone… I want to text my best friend, and I want to check my email. I try to distract myself by doling potato chips and baby carrots to the kids.
2:00 pm We’ve left the park, and are on our way to pick up a few things from the store. My daughter reminds me that the neighbors were talking about having a garage sale this upcoming weekend, and suggests that we pick up posterboard to make signs. I reach for my phone so I can check the weather. Darn it! I pick up the posterboard anyway. Even if it’s going to rain this weekend, I’ll need it eventually, so what’s the difference, really?
3:00 pm We’re home. My son asks if he can play Animal Jam. Sure, I tell him. I get the urge to check email again. He’s on the desktop computer and the laptop is dead, so if I wanted to use it, I’d need to bring it into the kitchen and plug it in. Meh. Maybe I don’t need to check it right this second. My daughter and I paint our toenails.
3:30 pm My son notices his sister’s and my colorful toes. Do something with me, he says, Monopoly board in hand. I resist the urge to peek at my email and Facebook updates now that he’s off of the computer and tell him I’ll play for a little while. Meanwhile, my daughter is sprawled next to me, making yard sale signs.
5:00 pm I’ve lost all of my play money, and it’s time to start dinner anyway. Ugh, checking on the tortilla lasagna recipe that I had in mind for today would really be much easier with the smartphone! I drag out the laptop and the cord, prop it on the counter, and turn on some Pandora to get me in the mood for cooking. I’m careful not to splash tomato sauce on the keyboard.
6:45 pm I feel a swell of panic: what if everyone has been trying to text me all day and they’re wondering where I am? I feel like I need to check, and I express this to my husband. He doesn’t text, and he looks at me like I have suddenly sprouted a second head. Wouldn’t they just call the house phone, if it were an emergency? he asks. I feel a little (okay, a lot) silly and go back to loading up the dishwasher.
8:30 pm I’m tucking the kids into bed. Mom, they say, it wasn’t so bad, was it, not having your phone? We got to do a lot of cool things! I smile. No, I think, not so bad. I fold some laundry, then snuggle on the couch with my sweetie to watch a sit-com. I laugh, and even watch the commercials… haven’t done that in a while!
10:30 pm It’s time for bed. I did it! I went the whole day without turning on my phone at all! I decide to turn it on to see if anyone had texted me. I did actually receive two texts: one from a friend that said she’d see me at the park (and she did), and one from my brother, saying “Cold day up here. Brrr.” (He lives up north, where the winters are not balmy like they are here!) Four people played their turns on Words With Friends, but I decide to make my moves tomorrow; I’m too tired for clear thinking tonight.
So, there you have it: I was, in fact, able to survive without my smartphone for a day! It wasn’t always easy, but I did it, and you can too. There are definitely a few advantages to unplugging periodically, which will be a discussion for another day. I am not going to go permanently smartphone-free, but I think I will unplug temporarily at times.
How about you? Have you tried going phone-free for a day or more? How did it go? If you haven’t tried, would you be willing to give it a go?