Benefits of Living Unplugged

By Trent Cummings

You already know how it goes. You might’ve been playing catch in the parking lot with friends. Or maybe you were updating that Snap Story, drunk in the club at 1:30 am? Perhaps scrolling through IG filters over the toilet? Yea idiot, I’m talking to you, the victim of an avoidable momentary lapse in personal judgment that results in the early demise of your phone. Hope that Sepia filter was worth it.

But I’m not here to make fun of you, I’m here to sympathize and maybe even provide you with your daily dose of optimism. You see, while I’m not a serial mobile device murderer, I have had the misfortune of breaking a couple of phones over the years. And as someone who has been paying for their own phone and cellular service since I was 15 (no family plans for ya boy), each time it happens is a pretty big deal. 

That is, until that time I decided it wasn’t. Late in November of 2014, my phone decided it’d be cool to commit suicide. No lie, I swear it dove out of my pocket and onto the pavement. It was one of those moments where you pick up your beloved people-talker and say “Ok, awesome, cool, I know you’re broken… but just how broken are you?” Let me tell you, the thing was finished. I could’ve tossed it in a blender and it might have come out looking better. But here’s the kicker – instead of freaking out and wondering how soon I would need/could get a new phone, I instead decided to see how long I could last without one. 

How long did I last? Nine months. Was it an inconvenience? Oh, absolutely. But I also benefitted from the experience. How? Lemme ‘splain.

Benefit #1: Strengthening of Time Management Skills

“Stop all your blood clot cryin', I was flyin’ made it to school with barely 'nuff time to sign in. Yeah I hear the alarm, yeah I hear ya mom, yeah yeah, I don't wan' be broke when I'm 31…” – [The Old] Kanye

I’ll come clean. My time management skills used to be… we’ll go with subpar. I was never the guy that would say, “Yea, I’m like, 5 minutes out in the Uber” when I was really around 1 hour away and still in the shower. But I also can’t tell you how many times my mom drove off and made me walk home in middle school because I was, “pussyfooting around with those hardheaded friends of mine.” 

Losing my phone meant I HAD to be punctual. My only forms of mobile communication were email, iMessage on my iPod Touch, or messaging apps such as GroupMe that could be utilized through a Wi-fi connection. If I told someone I’d meet them at a certain time, I made sure to be there at that time, otherwise I had no way of updating them on my whereabouts and I’d likely miss my appointment, get left behind by friends, etc. Yes, nine months was a long time to keep this up, but it had a positive impact on both my personal and professional life, as I’m rarely tardy for anything anymore.  

Benefit #2: Filtering Incoming Communication

“Can you hear me now?”             … lol na.

You know when you give your number out to someone and immediately regret the decision because they blow up your set? You sit there looking at the messages pouring in like, “On everything this person has zero friends.” Well without a phone… yea, you get it.

On the other hand, if the friends you already have an established relationship with continue to reach out to link up while you’re phoneless, they’re some real ones. Keep ‘em around. While at times it may be frustrating not having a cell, it’s likely equally frustrating for everyone on the opposite end of the line trying to get in touch with you.

Benefit #3: Become an Outgoing (But Realistic) Communicator

*walks up to friend mid-banger* “This. Meme. Tho.”

Wow, your friend just dropped a 30 second Snap Story update 5 minutes ago huh? You definitely have to watch it RIGHT NOW. Along with every Instagram update that has appeared since the last time you checked in, which was… also 5 minutes ago. You may not realize it, but in some way, shape, or form you’re likely addicted to social media and/or your mobile device. 

I for one drastically underestimated how often I used to use my phone as a crutch at social gatherings. I wasn’t necessarily anti-social, but I also wasn’t terribly engaging on a consistent basis. Once I lost my phone, I felt as though I’d been thrown out of my comfort zone since I no longer had the option of escaping to my haven of handheld entertainment. 

Sometimes getting lost in your phone is preferable, maybe even compulsory. I completely understand – your friend Susan’s pregame sucks, it’s not going to get any better because she just pulled out Twister and you aren’t 12, and now you have to watch her and all of her drunk friends trip over one another for 30 minutes until they decide not to go out.  Agreed, that’s not a great situation. But trust me, life is better on the outside. The humans standing around you at your pregame are way more interesting than you’ve given them the chance to be. Or maybe they’re not and you’ll have the awareness to realize you just need to dip out and find some new friends. 

Hold this L Susan. 

In conclusion, try not to break/lose your phone. When you do, remember it isn’t the end of the world. If you’re a student, it may be interesting to replicate my experiment for a couple of weeks. If you’re a member of the “real world” workforce, maybe not so much; being a spotty communicator will be detrimental to your professional image. But at least take the time to unplug every once in a while – you never know, you may learn a thing or two about yourself.


Photo Credit: Lee Chapman