Why I Ditched My Smartphone and Simplified My Life

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Shortness of breath. Anxiety and tightness in my chest.

Just a sampling of emotions I felt last night as I waited patiently at the counter of Metro PCS for my number to be ported.

By no means was this an easy transaction, even though I had been contemplating a switch for months.

At this very moment, I could see clearly how dependent I had become on this little device. As ridiculous as it sounds, I was experiencing the emotional and physical effects firsthand.

My Samsung Galaxy S5 was surrendering to the ZTE Altair, a basic phone, and ushering in a new, simpler era in my life.

ZTE

In with the old, out with the new.

Was I making a terrible decision? Or the best decision of my life? Only time will tell.

I was late to the smartphone game, having only used one for less than two years. At the time, I could not wait to get my hands on one and it did not take long to make up for lost time. I soon became a consistent user.

Now is the time to break the chains. I am not strong enough to simply limit my usage, so quitting cold turkey is the only way for me to go.

Smartphones have become a staple of our society. Just like food, clothing and shelter. Most people would probably choose their phone over any of the above three, never dreaming of going without their iPhone or Galaxy!

Our ever-connected culture is severely dependent on the smartphone, with its apps, camera, messaging and all of the other tools we use to stay relevant.

But there is a contingent of people, such as myself, who have dreamed about disconnecting from the chaotic world of social media, never-ending text messages, email notifications and a host of other smartphone related activities.

And the urge to check just about anything, from news to sports scores to entertainment, all while we wait in line, anywhere, all of the time.

Brenda, my sales representative at Metro PCS, told me that I was the first customer that had ever requested a “downgrade”, so apparently there aren’t tons of us out there. But we do exist.

As I mentioned above, my dream came true last night when I finally gathered the courage (after months of tossing around the idea) to trade in my Samsung Galaxy S5 for an unremarkable and data-less basic phone. And I have never been happier in my life.

Our household recently gave up cable television and internet, with overall positive results, so the smartphone seemed to be the next logical casualty.

The breaking point came recently when my nine year old daughter, after seeing someone using a flip phone, commented that she wished my phone was like that. She informed me that I spend too much time on my smartphone.

The idea that I was allowing my phone to take away from my time with my children saddened me. It was at that moment that I decided to make a change. A change that still did not occur for a few months. Hence the power of the almighty smartphone.

I have never thought of myself as a heavy smartphone user, although my daughter’s comment proves otherwise. I occasionally check my email and Facebook, check the news and weather and the sports scores. Yahoo is also a go-to site and friends often send me links to articles they find interesting, which usually includes links to other good articles.

Thankfully, there is no productivity app on my phone. When I really think about it, my usage is a little out of control. Thinking about all of those “wasted” hours makes me sick. Instead of reading a classic book or simply going to sleep at a decent hour, I was often mindlessly perusing my phone.

My list of reasons for keeping my phone was much longer than my list of reasons for ditching it. Just think about it. No picture messages. And what if I needed to look up a phone number? Directions? Movie times? The list is endless. I have become so dependent on this device that I had a hard time figuring out what I would do if it was gone? And if it would really be worth it?

Smartphones may be the world’s greatest time-waster, but they sure are convenient and they make life easier. Two billion people cannot be wrong. Right?

Not to mention all of the fun and entertainment they provide. They are a social media paradise. Instant access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Candy Crush, etc. all by touching an app on the screen.

And they all come equipped with state of the art cameras and video cameras with seemingly unlimited sets of features, all visible on a five inch screen with beautiful, high definition resolution.

The most compelling argument for most people is fear. The fear that if I am not constantly connected I may miss out on something. In fact, I am feeling a little anxious as I write this sentence.

We conjure up in our mind these hypothetical, time-sensitive activities that may come and go before we become aware of them. Activities that include flash sales, Facebook gossip and all sorts of breaking news. This, however, is a mostly baseless fear that has been taught to us and ingrained in us by the smartphone era.

These stories usually add stress and anxiety to our life anyway, so ridding ourselves of this perpetual feed appears to me to be a step in the right direction.

The list goes on and on, but it is very clear why giving up such a device is so hard to do.

Perhaps the biggest lie I would tell myself was that I needed my smartphone for work. I must have the ability to check my email (constantly). I used many excuses to try and convince myself that I simply could not part with my phone strictly for work reasons.

If I can convince myself that I need my phone for work instead of pleasure, then I may be able to keep it!

But, ultimately, that argument failed too. The work I do on my phone, the occasional email or report, could (and in most cases, should) be easily done from my office. I use my phone as a crutch. I know it’s there, so I end up having to use it for work because, while at work, I procrastinate.

Procrastinate you say? Now there is support for the home team. My Galaxy may be history’s best time waster but it is also history’s premier procrastinating machine.

Which leads me to my real reasons for giving up my beloved smartphone.

Financially speaking, switching to a basic phone represents a marginal improvement over the smartphone. Many companies now offer reliable and affordable options for unlimited talk, text and data. So while it still makes sense financially, my priorities lay elsewhere.

Lately I have been pondering about what really matters in my life. Strip down my world to its core and start from scratch. In short, I want to simplify my life.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. -Confucius

My family matters. My relationships with people matter. Those individuals deserve my attention, all of my attention, and I intend to be available.

My mind needs to be free so that it has time to think and absorb knowledge. My time is better spent reading and conversing and cooking and playing.

Not checking Yahoo for the latest celebrity tattoo or Trump’s latest insult. I don’t want to be the guy at the restaurant with his face buried in his phone.

Reaching for our smartphone, which has become a mindless activity, or an addictive habit, is just too easy.

I want to be present. Not artificially present. But really present in the world around me.

I want to be able to sit on a park bench without feeling this manic desire to pull out my phone. I want to be able to enjoy all that life has to offer.

I enjoy talking on the phone and do not mind a reasonable amount of texting. Although also potential time wasters, these are personal activities that involve actual human contact.

I am truly excited to see what the world has in store now that my smartphone chains are broken. Maybe boredom. Which may send me running back for the newest and best device on the market.

Who knows? I may finish my reading list for the year or actually get a full eight hours of sleep.

Many people use their smartphones daily for work. Others enjoy their phone immensely and could not bear the thought of losing it. I fully understand your position and I am not trying to convince you otherwise.

But my biggest hope is that I will be able to take one more step towards being present for my children and being a model for them. And show them a beautiful, real world that is begging to be experienced without the need for a useful and entertaining, but distracting, piece of technology.

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