I wrote a post about going without a phone for 10 days. Ten days have now passed, and I'm evaluating my options. This post is about my experience being phoneless and my thoughts about having a phone moving forward.


The last ten days have been extraordinarily peaceful! After a break-in phase of frequently checking my pant pocket for a phantom phone, I began to feel more at ease. After about three days, I felt a calmness that I hadn't enjoyed since middle school. After a week, I became more aware of the passage of time -- my days felt closer to a single drawn-out experience, as opposed to a cluttered collection of moments. During errands, I was forced to spend time waiting for as long as 30 minutes. Being without a phone, I spent these periods thinking to myself. There was immense value in maintaining my attention during these moments; I would compare them to a weak form of mindfulness meditation, something once part of my daily routine.

During these past ten days I've also seen greater productivity, which I attribute to an overall decrease in desire for stimulation. I finally got a simple academic personal website up and running. On the whole, I feel more capable of directing my attention.

Granted, there were some inconveniences to not having a phone. Most inconvenient was being unable to authenticate my university login. I still cannot authenticate, and in order to generate backup codes I need to get in touch with my school's IT department. I was also inaccessible to close friends whom I wanted to speak to, could not order food for delivery (though now I realize I can order it from my computer), and could not easily use car service. I was, however, able to chat with friends using iMessage on my laptop.

Having spent the past ten days without a phone -- and being disappointed by the recent launch of the Google Pixel 6 (a contributing factor to this phoneless experiment) -- I would like to continue life without a phone. I'm willing to give up Uber, Uber Eats, Google Maps, Google Pay, Slack, GMail, and Snapchat. Happy to, actually. However, I need to be able to make calls and texts. Also, having used iMessage for the first time, I was very impressed by how conversational it feels and how convenient it is to chat from my laptop. If I want to get texts on a feature phone, I will have to choose SMS over iMessage. I briefly considered getting an iPhone 12 mini for this reason (I also absolutely love the form factor and design), but I'm worried about getting robocalls. This was not as much a problem on my Pixel 4, which offered excellent spam-call blocking and on-hold waiting (this is perhaps the most practical feature of Google's Pixel Launcher; I almost never needed to listen to god-awful muzak while waiting for a representative).

I'm torn, guys. Should I get a feature phone? An iPhone 12 mini? Should I flash the Pixel Launcher onto a different Android phone (or embark on a painstaking search for the beautiful-but-discontinued Pixel 5) to spare myself from robocalls? What are your thoughts?


Edit: I've decided to try out a feature phone for the indefinite future. I'm now rocking the Nokia 6300 4G in cyan.

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By getting a feature phone, that provides experimental value. Ie. you get more data on what that lifestyle is like, and whether it is something you want to do longer term. That experimental value seems to me like it overwhelms all other considerations, and thus it would make sense to get a feature phone.

That's a great point! There's no reason why I can't continue this experiment, feature phones are inexpensive enough to try out.

This experiment illustrates a great way of using tech as utilitarian value. I wonder if you've read Cal Newport's books "Deep Work" and "Digital Minimalism" which the author emphasizes of using technologies for beneficial use and eliminating ones that are distracting or useless.

+1. I was going to mention Cal Newports stuff too but forgot. Seems right up your alley Benjamin.

Haven't read either, but a good friend has read "Deep Work," I'll ask him about it.

Consider getting the iPhone but change the way you use it. A friend and I are much happier since we made our phones silent. Do not disturb mode, no notifications, etc. All those services you mentioned (Uber, etc) are great and you should still have access to them.

I check my phone when I finish a task and need a break. That is usually many times per day. So I do notice important things like calls and texts and I return them, but when it is convenient for me. Your friends will understand occasional delays, just as they did during the last 10 days. It took practice to get out of the addictive phone checking habit, but the same was true of not eating cookies all day. You can do it!

I've long been interested in the Light Phone (primarily for my husband and not myself), though I guess in practical terms that's not much different from getting a feature phone. 

And this isn't a direct response to the post I guess, but I'm personally pretty content with my relationship with my phone. I like having it in my pocket as a camera, as a means of calling for help in an emergency (I'm a worrier and also in fact see a lot of accidents and crime while out walking), and as a shield to let me avoid unwanted social interactions. Having Uber and maps available also helps me feel more secure and like I won't end up trapped somewhere. Also, I'm happy with the quantity and quality of the notifications I get, since most days, no one messages me except my mom, my sister, and my husband.

In terms of addiction, I weakly recommend:

  • Putting your phone in greyscale (more or less permanently)
  • Having a habit of not following the news, not only on your phone but on any platform
  • Cultivating disdain for people who spend time on their phones
  • Cultivating deep hatred of infinite scrolling, and deleting any app that has this feature
  • Leaving most group chats or servers you're in, or if you can't leave them (e.g. if they're for work), at least muting most of them

I have more of a problem with addiction to my computer, but there too, I've successfully made my computer pretty boring. I use UBlock Origin to block most content and features on Facebook and Youtube, and then, since I don't have any friends, the only things available for me to compulsively check are things that don't actually update frequently and so it gets boring (I check email, Facebook, LW, Discord, and Slack compulsively, but 85% of the time there's nothing new). I guess I don't recommend the part about not having friends.

And finally, +1 to reading Digital Minimalism.

Another option could be to use something like appblock for Android and block all non-essential apps always

I can relate myself to this post very much. I have not used a cell/smart phone for the past two years now, and I don't feel like I missed anything important in these years. I do have an office phone that I can use to call my family members several times a day. I faced the same problem in terms of setting up my university email earlier this year, but fortunately I could do it using office phone. 

Every time when I had a problem like this, I tried to find a solution and usually I was able to find one. So I don't see myself getting back to a cell/smart phone anytime in the near future. 

Now that I've read this, I really want to go for an extended period without my phone.

I most likely won't follow through with this (90% certainty), even though I want to.

:|

I lucked into a circumstance where I could more easily justify ditching a phone for a bit. Otherwise, I would not have had the mental fortitude to voluntarily go without one.

I most likely won't follow through with this (90% certainty), even though I want to.

I'm wondering if there is some LW content on this concept, I'm sure others have dealt with it before. You might need to take a drastic measure to make this option more attractive. A similar technique was actually used by members of the NXIVM Cult, they called it collateralization.

I wondered the same thing. Collateralisation sounds similar to commitment devices, I could try this! 

On another note, how long did it take before you started noticing the benefits of being phone-less?