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Unplug Yourself! A Simple Strategy to Be Less Attached To Your Phone

I was in the fifth grade when I got my first phone. It was a dinky little flip phone. We didn’t have a texting plan, nor did I even know what texting was. It might’ve had Bejeweled as its only game. I had gotten my phone earlier than most of my peers, so I kept it a secret. My parents were mainly afraid of me getting abducted, hence why I got a phone.

I barely used my phone until high school. I remember having later getting Nokia, and it was a big deal to have a flatscreen phone with music capabilities. Not that I even listened to much music. I loved that phone so much, I refused to get an iPhone for the longest time.

At the time, my high school was a blend of people with smartphones and simple phones. Now, I see elementary children younger than the fifth grade running around with smartphones. Better yet, middle school and high school children have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and whatever else is popular now. Children constantly with their noses almost in their palms, illuminated by the glow of the phone screen.

When I was in elementary school, my favorite pastimes were reading, writing, and crafts. I used to go outside and play sports. I used to go on vacation, and send postcards to my friends. I would even go on vacation and post no photos online (gasp!), as it was the pre-social media era. You know, back when the point of taking pictures was to capture the memories, not to post it online.

Those of us in our twenties now are probably the last generation to remember a life before smartphones and social media. When we actually had to call our friends at their house if we wanted to hang out, and possibly speak to their parents or siblings if they didn’t answer the phone. When there was no GPS or map app, and we had to print out directions, or God forbid read an actual map. When we lived without our face in our phones, without having to uphold a constant public image on social media, and without a nearly implanted phone accessory on us at all times.

And that’s not to say that it’s all bad. Facebook did make communication enormously easier when I was overseas and my phone didn’t work internationally. Instagram and SnapChat does keep us updated on what everyone is doing. And the Internet really is a plethora of information.

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But are we so desperate for our phones and the Internet and social media that we have to have our phones on us at every second of the day, checking all social media and watching for any and every text?

How much really changes between checking Facebook at 7:10pm and 7:12pm?

Is it that detrimental if we don’t take our phones with us to the restroom?

Do we even know how to read a map anymore?

What would we do in a power outage?

This doesn’t mean we should all shun our phones entirely. Some of us do have family emergencies to watch for, and important business people need to be aware of their emails at all times.

But those two minutes to use the restroom probably won’t change anything.

So let’s start small.

  1. Leave your phone behind. Leave your phone behind when you go to the restroom. Leave your phone aside when you shower. Then try leaving your phone behind when you do laundry or a quick errand at the store.
  2. Try turning off your phone during your next date. Not just in your bag on vibrate, but completely off.
  3. Delete apps. Delete the Facebook app, the Twitter app, the Instagram app, and even the SnapChat app.

Just temporarily. If you’re feeling up for more of a challenge, try a tech-free weekend like Clare.

I do it every time I feel too engrossed in social media and not connected enough with the real world. I ended up deleting my Twitter account because I wasn’t using it. The Facebook app is still deleted from my phone, and I only go on Facebook about once or twice a week to make sure I’m not missing any important messages. My Instagram has been idle for months. And I think I post about one or maybe two SnapChats a month, if that.

Because I don’t actually want thousands of “friends” or followers to know where I am and exactly what I’m doing to instant I’m doing it. The Internet can be just as scary as it can be amazing.

Is it really so important to feel popular that we would jeopardize our own safety and sense of self for attention?

Or even worse, live so engrossed in technology that we miss out on life right in front of us?

So for the day, or even part of the day, or even just an hour, half an hour, or ten minutes, don’t touch your phone or computer. Your messages will still be there. Social media will still be there. It will all still be there.

So take a moment and just go enjoy the quiet of an unplugged mind. Because we don’t do it nearly enough.

How do you balance your tech and media use? Do you ever take days off, delete apps or intentionally leave your phone behind?

About the Author

Lindsey Zawila

Lindsey graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a B.A. in Global Studies and Communications. She studied abroad in Austria (Summer 2013), Switzerland (Spring 2014), and India (Winter 2014). Her previous internships include the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland, the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S State Department in Washington, D.C., and CNN International in Atlanta, GA. In her free time, you'll find her reading, writing, making jewelry or friendship bracelets, sewing or refining her photography skills.