Last week, my roommate, our neighbor and I decided to go camping for spring break. I also decided to turn my phone off for the trip. Originally, it was because I didn’t want to worry about finding a place to charge it while I was at the campsite, but days before the camping trip it started giving me anxiety; I was getting notifications from every group chat and for every project. I wanted to chuck the thing into a lake.
The day of the camping trip comes and I turn my phone off and leave it in my room. Finally, some relief. Then I had to sit in the car while my roommate ran in to grab something. Nothing makes you want your phone more than having to sit alone with your thoughts, even for a minute.
Throughout the car ride, I kept checking my pockets and purse for my phone, only to have a small panic attack when it wasn’t there, followed by relief when I remembered I left it at home, followed by more panic when I realized I wouldn’t have it for two days.
When we got to the campsite, there was a post with outlets on it. I wish I brought my phone was first thought. Too late now. I was on my own.
Over the next two days I gradually got used to the missing weight in my pocket. And I became less scared of my own thoughts too. By end of the trip I had confronted every negative thought spiral without help from my phone and came out of it alive. I began to actually process the thoughts instead of running from them.
I’m not saying I have reached Nirvana just because I wasn’t on my phone, but it helped. Something about the combination of spending time with friends, being in nature, and (temporarily) throwing away my social crutch made me feel a lot better than I have in a while.
I am also not saying I am getting rid of my phone. Having a tiny computer on me at all times is too convenient to just give up. There were many times during the trip I wished I had my phone on me, whether it was to take pictures of the dying campfire or to GPS our way home when my roommate’s phone was about to die.
However, by the time we got home, I wasn’t in a hurry to turn my phone back on. I thought I would run to it immediately, but I waited until we had unloaded the car and settled in before I retrieved it. Of course, the moment I turned it on it went off with a million notifications and I was back in reality. But that just made me cherish the time apart even more.
That time gave me a chance to stay completely focused on the present and not what I need to do or what I’m missing somewhere else. And, since you are probably reading this on your phone right now, I would highly recommend turning it off for a weekend. Spend some time without that crutch and confront your mortality. It's fun, I promise.