By: Louise Veitch

We’re obsessed with our phones, and not in the very British way of being addicted to Love Island or Harry and Megan. We need them, we are addicted to them. It’s not just a communication device anymore, it’s more like an organ. We can’t get from A to B, listen to music, take a photo, communicate with friends or even transfer money without them.

To anyone born post-1983 simply the idea of being phone-free is anxiety inducing. However, after my phone was stolen and its replacement was lost by the Royal mail, I was looking at ‘3-10 working days’ before getting back on the grid (it was 10). At first, being forced into a digital detox was disorientating – how will I speak to anyone? Do I know how to get anywhere in London without Citymapper? Can I go and get a sandwich from Sainsbury’s without my phone? How will I walk somewhere if I can’t call somebody at the same time? Can I still breathe without it? But then, over the next 10 phone-free days with little else to distract me, I had a number of revelations:

  1. I can’t read a map (and neither can anyone in London)
  2. It is possible to sit on a train and do nothing for thirty minutes
  3. Before apps, there were websites
  4. Almost every social event is organised over WhatsApp groups
  5. You can experience phantom phone buzzes
  6. Almost all things take twice as long without a phone
  7. You need to plan, prepare and then accept it when things still go wrong
  8. If someone needs to reach you, they will

I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either – it’s still a massive inconvenience. If everyone around you has access to everything, instantly from their device it sets a pace of life that’s difficult to keep up with when you are phoneless. But still, what I lost from instant communication I made back in conversation and the minutes lost from missing trains and actually being lost never totalled the hours I would have spent scrolling through Instagram that week. Ultimately, I lost a lot but communication wasn’t really part of it.

So, if you do find yourself without a phone, prepare yourself for disorientation, getting lost and not being able to approve transactions on your mobile banking app. But what you might find surprising is how little you miss the always-on instant communication and how much you value the space in your head when it’s taken away.

At Aspectus a few volunteers are going phone-free for the full working day, to see the impact it has on our human interaction and mental health – if you need us, call the office!

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