Last night, as I guiltily tapped away on my smartphone while lying in bed, I realized something: I didn't have to feel bad about my post-work smartphone use anymore. It was June 1, which meant my cleanse was over.
I have, more or less, officially survived 31 days of restricted smartphone use. 31 long days of reaching for my phone while stopped at red lights and waiting for trains, only to realize I wasn't allowed to do it.
To be perfectly honest, some of those moments led to ridiculous mini panic attacks. What if I'd missed a very important text? Was that Instagram photo getting enough likes? What if an unanswered work email had sent the company up in flames? ...OK, so that last one may be a little extreme, but you get the point.
I consider myself a disciplined person. I eat my vegetables, exercise almost every day and pretty much every item on my to-do list gets crossed off. But this smartphone cleanse of mine was very, very hard.
Without further ado, let's revisit "the rules."
1. No post-work Smartphone use. This was perhaps the hardest rule of all, and the one I failed at the most often. While I was out and about in the world, whether it was with friends, on a run or at a yoga class, I was pretty good about staying away from my phone. But when "alone time" hit, I felt powerless to stop myself from incessantly refreshing my Instagram feed and texting the friends I'd talked to on Gchat only hours before.
I did get a lot better at picking up the phone to call people, though, which made me realize how much of a false connection texting really is. My best friend from home lives across the country, and last month we got in the habit of talking on the phone a few times a week. Unsurprisingly, those conversations were much more fulfilling than texting could ever be.
2. No "I'm bored" smartphone use. This was another tough one, but I was amazed by what happened when I kept my phone in my bag in "boring" situations. Mostly, I realized that the activities I'd always labeled boring were not actually that boring. I do live in New York City, after all. On walks around my neighborhood I made eye contact with and smiled at more people, witnessed some epic arguments and overheard a lot of great conversations.
Another thing I noticed was how many people weren't paying attention to anything -- including a car that was inches away from hitting them -- because they were glued to their smartphones. Not great, society. Not great at all.
3. No "I'm uncomfortable" smartphone use. This one was challenging too, but in a fun way. Awkward situations were still pretty awkward, but I did make a few new friends -- okay, acquaintances -- in the elevator last month. And this past Friday night, I was out with a group of friends who spent most of the evening on their phones. I guess I can't prove this, but I'm pretty sure I had a better time talking to the one other person who left her smartphone in her bag.
Am I changed person thanks to my 31-day smartphone cleanse? Not really. Yes, I did feel happier and more authentically connected when I separated myself from my phone. But what I truly came to understand is that constant smartphone use is now very ingrained in me -- and everyone -- and it's not good. Realistically, this habit is going to take more than 31 days to kick. And I'm not stopping now.