Why I Ditched My Smartphone

ditched smartphone

“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.” – Robert Tew

On March 7, 2014, I pulled the plug on my smartphone.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like having it; if anything, I liked having it too much.

My phone was an extension of myself. I couldn’t go anywhere without it.

At night I plugged it in on my nightstand when I went to bed, scrolling through Facebook one last time before tucking myself in. In the morning, I turned it on before my eyes were fully open.

I enjoyed having it until that fateful day when I realized that what had started as a useful tool had turned into an addiction.

Some people drink too much; I spent too much time scrolling aimlessly through my friends’ updates, taking pictures of my food instead of enjoying it, and consuming content instead of creating it.

When I realized how much it was controlling me, I made a conscious decision to give up the mindless Facebook scrolling while waiting for coffee, answering emails when I should be talking to my husband in the car, and skimming blog post after blog post when I could just enjoy being present.

I clicked the button to cancel my data plan and pulled my old flip-phone out of hiding.

That night I sat there, staring at my new phone, flipping aimlessly through the menu looking for something interesting, and asking myself whether I had made a mistake.

I expected some withdrawal, but I didn’t realize just how attached I had become to my “hand extension.”

When I was watching TV shows or movies and there was a boring part, I missed picking up the phone and checking out “what everyone else was doing.” Now I had to pay attention or find a way to occupy myself with my thoughts instead.

When I was waiting for the pump to finish at the gas station, my fingers were itching for something to scroll through. I had to pull out my Kindle and read something that took longer than 2 minutes or look around, actually noticing what’s going on..

When the conversation with my husband came to a halt in the car, I desperately wanted to have that phone in my hands to find something else to talk about or just to amuse myself. Instead, I had to pay more attention during our conversation so we could keep it going, or be content just sitting in silence together, enjoying the ride.

Yes, there are legitimate reasons why I’m potentially “worse off” without a smartphone.

When I visited New York City, I had to write out directions and ask people where an intersection was instead of pulling out my phone. But seeing how kind people in New York City can be when you reach out and communicate makes up for the somber anonymity of everyone “going about their businesses” in the big city.

When I drive, I have to pay attention to where I’m going – the “Google lady” isn’t there to warn me about a turn a quarter mile ahead of time. Last time I drove to the farm we pick up milk from, I actually noticed a sign that tells you exactly when to turn – one I hadn’t noticed in the entire year I had been driving there with the help of my phone (during which time I had repeatedly missed said turn – even with the Google lady’s help).

When my husband and I have a disagreement over an “important fact”, we have to wait until we get home to resolve it, use our imagination and arguments, or agree to disagree in order to move on. Sometimes we even forget to settle it. When I remember it a week later, I often realize just how little importance these arguments carry (and yet, they seem so important when you’re in the middle of them and trying to prove the other person wrong).

What I have gained from being free of my smartphone addiction has more than made up for the disadvantages of not having one.

I have welcomed silence into my life with open arms and am enjoying the increased productivity from not constantly having to fight with the temptation to check my phone while I’m trying to get something done.

I am allowing my thoughts to speak to me instead of my phone. Being fully present with myself has led to realizations and insights that I otherwise would have missed on.

I am connecting with others in a genuine way that isn’t all about me. Instead of always posting about what’s going on in my seemingly perfect life, I am connecting with my friends one-on-one, talking about the reality of our lives and being there for them from a place of authenticity.

As much as having a smartphone was comfortable, not having one is freeing on a much bigger level.

Beyond the pleasure of being able to forget about my phone and find it a week later with a full battery, I have rediscovered the profound freedom of being able to go outside and be completely disconnected. It feels like I am 100% myself – alone and independent, standing on my own two feet.

I had forgotten how good it can feel to be completely unplugged – to not be a slave to email, Instagram, or the latest happenings on Facebook. And to not have to make that decision every day or once in a while, but to have it already there – all I need to do is step out of the house.

Many people ask me if I miss my smartphone. The answer is: not anymore. Of course, for a while I operated in victim mode. I missed the scrolling, the sharing, the constantly being connected. But once I started offering different answers to the question of “What should I do now?” I learned that my phone was nothing more than a crutch to keep myself comfortable.

But staying comfortable no longer fits my vision of what I want my life to be. So I’m embracing my dumb phone and my unplugged life, and my silence and my thoughts, and going against the grain.

I’m letting myself enjoy a different kind of freedom.

I’m not asking that you give up your phone too, but if you could snap your fingers and create more freedom in your life, how would you do it?

Photo by Dave Lawler

44 thoughts on “Why I Ditched My Smartphone”

  1. Wow Laura, I wish that I could ditch my smartphone because I think that I am addicted too. I purchased an iPhone to help me create more margin in my life, so that I could spend more time with my family, now I find us spend more time on our phones than communicating in person. Recently my daughter and I attended a concert and found ourselves texting each while we were sitting next to each other. Unfortunately, since I am pretty mobile, I need a tool to help me keep up with my email. I think that rather than ditch it, I will try to be more intentional about using it when I am with my wife and daughter. I am also going to try an iPhone fast, from 7pm Saturday until 7 pm on Sunday.

    1. Steve, that sounds so familiar! I also got a smartphone to make my life a little more efficient, but it soon turned into a small addiction (one we rarely care to call out). I am blessed to be able to work from home, but I would definitely have a harder time without it if I was constantly on the road. I 100% support your efforts to start cutting down a bit and enjoying family time! In the end it’s all about finding a good balance that works for you.

  2. It sounds like you had the smartphone bug pretty bad Laura, it is refreshing to hear that someone has realised that there is life without a smartphone and all the distractions they provide. Silence and thoughts are great, you get to communicate with yourself and it is better to interact with others by speaking rather than from behind a miniature screen. Congratulations on your new found freedom, a great post, thanks Laura

    1. Thanks, Robert! Yeah, I did. It was always just there, and it felt good to be busy, even if what I was doing wasn’t purposeful (there’s a big difference there).

  3. Congrats Laura! Personally, I’ve never owned a smart phone because I know how addicted I’d be. I already feel that I spend too much time on the internet. So my time away from home is my “internet free time”. Plus, it means I have more money for the things that are truly important to me.

    1. Ed, I wish I had had that insight before I bought my smartphone too! But I think it was a great experience to learn everything I’ve learned. I’m just relearning what “internet free time” even means! Thanks for sharing your experience :)

  4. Great post, Laura. I recently got a smartphone just so I could text. I really don’t use it for anything else, but am amazed at the battery that thing uses!

    My addiction is my iPad. It is a horrid addiction! My husband will come home from work and unwind by getting on his tablet, so we are both addicted to “the things we think we need.”

    I am going to talk to him tonight and show him your post. I hope we can stop using our tablets to the point of addiction to them.

    I must say that I do use my tablet to take notes. I have found I can keep up with what people are saying much better by typing it out rather than writing it down. That is the main reason I use it. I have NEVER been a Facebook fan and probably will never use it.

    Our state just made a law that makes it illegal to text OR to talk on your phone while driving unless you have Bluetooth. Hoorah! About time to make this a national law! It would save hundreds of lives!

    1. Christie, I fully support that! Although I think you can also text with a dumbphone (I do) without having to pay for the crazy expensive data plan… Switching from smartphones saved us $100/month and we can still call and text.

      I also have a tablet that I love to take with me on trips to work and take notes on, it’s so much lighter and easier to use than my laptop. But I make a conscious effort to leave it somewhere at home and forget about it for most of the day.

      I think it all starts with identifying why it’s important to you to reduce this addiction, and then finding alternative ways to relax that are more in line with your values. Best of luck to you and your husband, and thank you for sharing your story!

  5. Yay! I totally LOVE this post, Laura:) I have been taking myself in this direction as well. I loved how you wrote: I learned that my phone was nothing more than a crutch to keep myself comfortable. For me (for years) distraction was a comfort I didn’t realize was running my life.

    I’ve not swapped my smart phone out (yet), but I do put it away for long stretches at a time. Now I have time to do things like: read for pleasure, just sit and listen to sounds, and take more walks with my dog (crazy, right?).

    I’ve noticed life seems to have slowed down. I’ve noticed my senses feel more awake (I listen and enjoy layers of activity and non-activity in my world, I see cool things). I’ve noticed I feel less anxious.

    This post was awesome, woman! I’m truly glad your wrote it:)

    1. Yay, Deana! Thank you for your kind words. I’ve also been amazed at just how much more free time I seem to have. Life indeed has slowed down for me and I’ve been more aware of my thoughts, values and dreams ever since my life has been more unplugged. And I find myself yearning for even more time, and even more slowing down, and even more enjoying life without the now overwhelming feeling of being connected 24/7. So excited for you!

  6. I join all the others here in saying how great this post is.

    I was late getting a smartphone and slow to warm to it. I used it only to call people, but then learned to text and surf/scroll on it. Oh my things changed!

    I don’t carry it with me all the time, for example, when I go for a walk or garden but, most time times it is near by. I realized how hooked I was when a few months ago my phone had a malfunction! I couldn’t believe how lost I was for a few days. I even had to use a landline! This little episode opened my eyes and now reach for the less that before.

    1. Thanks, Carolynne! It hit me like a giant truck when I finally gave it up just how lost I was, too. Kudos to you for not letting it have a grip on you and your attention for too long!

      1. Ditching components (in your case, smartphone) will not give you permanent freedom. It is just a temporary alternative where you will addict to something else instead of previous. You should be able to free your mind by letting go while you using it. My suggestion is to get the phone back. Go through the feelings and what mind ask you to do with it. If mind tells you to use the phone for previous addictions again, speak to your mind and say “I’m not going to do it”. Strictly tell your mind that I’ll use this only for real purpose if not let it be as it is. You live on the present moment (Now) without thinking of the phone. Practice it as a meditation. I know early stage it’s really hard. But try to keep the phone and see what mind tells you to do. Just go through them and try to ditch those feelings instead of ditching the phone.

        1. I completely disagree. A smart phone is an unnecessary accoutrement. There is no reason to learn how to live with it.

          1. I think what they are trying to say is that avoiding something isn’t necessarily the best way to deal with it. I have a TV but never watch it. I wouldn’t throw it out, since perhaps one day a friend will come over and we will watch a movie.

            I have a car, but I walk everywhere. I used to drive everywhere but instead I started walking. I still have my car in case I have to use it for an emergency or to visit friends.

            People who cut themselves off seldom do it long term. If you don’t want to surf the web in bed, then don’t. It’s up to YOU. The point isn’t whether it’s a necessary or unnecessary “accoutrement.” It’s whether the person using the device is fully in control of their actions or not. Some would even say computers are not necessary, yet here we are…

  7. I chain myself to my PC every day. I leave my smartphone at home so that I am not a total slave to the blue pill of virtual reality.

    Do I have to catch up on email or voicemail when I get back to the office? Sure.

    Is that inconvenient? Sometimes.

    Is it better to take the red pill in exchange for a real life? Definitely!

    1. Dave, that’s awesome! Back when I was still commuting to work I used to force myself to leave my phone in my bag so I could have the uninterrupted hour of time on the train without an internet connection to work. I did my most productive work during that time! Kudos to you for enforcing that, taking (and sticking with) the red pill is tough! Thanks for sharing :)

  8. Awesome post Laura! So timely for me as last night I was chilling/meditating/reading at home and decided to spend the entire night without looking at facebook and email and guess what?! Big fail. And when my mind had a moment of not being occupied, it would jump automatically to wanting to check e-mail and Facebook. For myself, I am wondering if there is simply a way to be more disciplined when it comes to this, instead of getting rid of my phone altogether. Things I`m planning to give a shot: leaving my phone at home, or putting my phone in flight mode while I am out or want to focus on tasks, and a phone and internet-free day of the week (Sunday probably). However, not having the phone altogether would take away the temptation! I only got data on my phone this past October for a road trip I was going on… prior to having data I did not have the phone addiction… cancelling data on my plan might be another good idea (although there`s still lots of free wi-fi around). This is turning into a really long comment… thanks for getting the juices flowing! Totally respect what you`re doing sista ;)

  9. Thank you for sharing this experience. I’ve just got a smartphone for the first time in my life, a few weeks ago. I chose the cheapest one with a limited connection to Internet (500 Mo) because I think that I already connect too much with the computer or the IPad. The good thing with the phone is that I can chat with my family any moment (my brother lives in Chicago and I live in France) and exchange pictures, but I’ ve noticed that some times I spend some times taking pictures than actually seeing. It is important to balance the advantages of technology with the real experience of being here now, present for my husband and my children and the life in me and arround me. And you express all this in your text.

  10. AH, I SO wish I could do this! I think about life before smart phones and internet all the time. I don’t feel crazy addicted to my phone, but I hate what texting, etc has done to relationships and real communication. Also, spelling and hand writing. Has anyone else noticed how bad cursive has become?!
    Your post was very inspirational, thank you for sharing! It helped me see what a crutch my phone has been. I love to use it to avoid potentially awkward situations (walking past that co-worker you’re no longer friends with and looking super interested in the weather on my phone) and any time I’m waiting in line or for an appointment. I think there really is something to both facing situations head on and learning to patiently wait and not have to “do” something every second of every hour. Though I may not get rid of my smart phone altogether, I want to make a conscious effort to leave it behind/alone a lot more often than I do now. Perhaps one day I will be brave and dumb phone it up …
    I am curious if you’ve found that any of your relationships changed at all once you went “offline”?
    Thanks again for the awesome post!

  11. It’s funny to me that as you are ditching your smartphone I finally gave in and got one. Even though I did not own one before, I was exposed to them through my many family members and I quickly saw how addicting they can be. It got to the point that the only way they would talk to each other is through texting and sometimes they would be in the same room! You don’t see people’s faces anymore because they are always looking down at their phones, EXCEPT when they are taking the dreaded selfies!! So far I have not caved in to the smartphone addiction. I only use it when necessary to make calls and sometimes a bit of GPS help. NO selfies. Also no addiction to Facebook. I got scared of that one when it started suggesting friends for me. I do have my weakness, though and that is the pc and the online environment. I am an avid web surfer and I go to the web for everything. I sometimes wonder how I survived before I had internet access. I am a bookmark junkie and the funny thing I rarely go back to the things I mark as “important”. I lose a lot of sleep because I don’t know when to quit (like now….it is 2:20am). The excuse I use is I am looking for work which is true but then I roam into everything else. There’s so much to catch your attention. I guess I need to unplug sometime.

  12. I rather innocently and openly shared with two moms that I let my 3-year-old son never, ever have an iPad or an iPhone. Absolutely never.

    They looked at me in an odd way – their expression was somewhere in the neighborhood of blank, neutral to amazed, semi-guilty and at the same time perhaps even slightly disapproving. “Wow, that’s HARD CORE” – “…cause the iPhone surely helps a lot”.

    I disagree. It’s the other way around: It totally helps A LOT that I don’t give him the iPhone, and neither do I spend much time on it when with him.

    I would lose my mind if I didn’t have this close of a connection with my son. I’m a single mom, and TIRED. I’m also the only source of income in this family. What saves me is the fact that we are a team: We know each other well enough to handle each other’s “moments”. Good and bad.

  13. I only just bought a smartphone two months ago. It’s my first and I can already see how it could become a problem. I’m trying to be very aware of how and when I use it to keep that from happening.

  14. Wow I am impressed by what you did and commend you for doing it. I agree the benefits far outweigh being a Slave to any electronics. I am aware of “the hook”, and my partner keeps me grounded. Interesting what’s meant to serve us, creeps in and we become the servants. Great move and cheers to greater rewards.

  15. Oh my gosh, just reading this made me feel uncomfortable and anxious…What that tells me is I am more hooked on my phone than I realized. In fact it is sitting right next to me, still lit up because I just impulsively checked it. Time to make some changes. Thanks for the awareness and inspiration.

  16. Hi Sarah. The way you have written this article, the way you have put across quite a few of those incidents, suddenly makes me feel the same way. It’s as if I was unaware of how ridiculously was I addicted to my Smartphone and now suddenly I have realized and coming to terms with the fact that I’m indeed addicted to it. I definitely go on scrolling aimlessly when I have nothing to do or nothing to talk about with my family (and that happens quite often, as it does with a lot of people). Now reading this article has made me realize it all and it suddenly sounds so scary.
    Wish I could ditch my Smartphone. But that doesn’t seem to be happening since all my Email Accounts (Outsourcing) have been synced with my Cell Phone.
    But yes, at the same time, I must acknowledge I use my Smartphone a lot more for aimless social networking than for my Work Email.
    So yes, this article helps me to come to the conclusion that I need to get rid of social networking on my Phone to get out of this addiction. Delete Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, BBM, Viber, Skype and WeChat. Life sounds much more easier just by saying this.
    Thanks again, warm regards.
    Aimless wandering was so much better than aimless scrolling!!!

  17. You can definitely free up a lot of your time by reducing your social media use. People spend so much time on Instagram just scrolling through photos and looking for more things to look at.

    People even spend hours scouring the web for pictures and sayings to post. So many people go out together than spend the entire time on their phones. It’s insane.

    I think putting down your phone will definitely enrich your life instantly, just by being in the moment.


  18. I am sitting here chuckling to myself because I just decided at lunch today that it was time to take a personal retreat away from the smartphone and Facebook for a month! I have noticed how interrupted my sleep has become and I constantly feel as though I am missing something if I don’t check my phone.

    The other night I was going over a list of things that I need to be doing for my small business and realized how many deadlines I had missed. Do you know why I missed them? Because I was too busy at night responding to, posting, or scrolling thru my phone or on my laptop!!! I realized I was becoming disconnected from my life and it is because of the addiction to the internet, etc.

    Even most recently while attending my first Grandson’s graduation, during the “boring” parts of the featured speakers, I took out my phone!!! I was NOT embracing the present moment. How very sad is that??!!

    Loved, loved, loved this blog post and I honestly feel, for me at least, that it is confirmation that what I am doing is right at this point in time. Hopefully, at the end of my 30 days, I will be much freer and will not find it necessary to jump back into the technology rat race.

    Thank you so much for being so authentic and hopefully everyone who read this will take steps to step back. :)

  19. Just a month ago I unfriended every person but 2 on facebook, only keeping an account at all becuase I have my business page on Facebook.

    A week ago I deleted my instagram account. I loved instagram. I loved connecting with my real life and online friends, but I didn’t like who I was becoming – an addicted phone-checker, addicted to the likes and the comments. THIS WAS NOT WHO I REALLY WAS! Or who I wanted to be!

    Two minutes after I deleted my account started a day which held four instances of connectivitity for me – four instances that I would not have enjoyed had I had my head stuck in my phone at the bus stop, the coffee shop, walking around at lunchtime …

    I have had several friends contact me to ask if i am OK! Because surely the only reason I would delete something as major as my IG account was if something was wrong! Nope, I said. I wanted to start looking up, not down. I wanted to act like a real-life person, not an instagrammed version of myself. And those friends who were so concerned? Well if they really cared, they’d be happy to have lunch with me next week ;)

    Thank you so much for writing this post! It was such a good read, and good luck with your ongoing quest for real life connections!

  20. Hey thanks for a wonderful post .I deleted Facebook App long back from my SmartPhone(which i feel no longer smart :P) .These days am so addicted to wassap app but guess can’t delete it for it has got really helpul feature of sharing photos and useful stuff apart from just chit chatting .
    Would like to thank you bringing up this topic on this blog .:)
    cheers to wonderful life!

  21. Hans Peter Nicolai Mallet

    Hey Laura, thank you for such a good article! It is generally true that we shouldn’t rely too much on new technology. That is why I have ditched my laptop to take notes with at lectures, when I am studying.
    I have gone back to basics, by writing with my hand, so I don’t need to feel completely lost in case our modern equipment will let us Down. Besides that it gives me a slight opportunity to Express myself(my personality) and I can’t get distracted by the temptations of the Laptops many possibilies.
    We should write real letters more often, because that is where you feel the real person behind.

  22. You’ve described my current plight exactly. I struggle with use of my phone at times…and it’s amazing how dependent I’ve become. It’s just perceivably easier to avail myself of the apps…at least that what I tell myself. I’ll have to start weaning myself off the phone…app by app.

  23. Yesterday I dragged out my old Motorola Razr v3 flip phone, and jumped online to order a new battery. I just bought my first android less than 2 months ago and I already hate it. I enjoyed the Blackberry phones I had over the course of about 3 years, but I never used enough of the apps to make it worth the trouble. I use my phone for talking and very brief texts. I actually HATE texting as a means of conversation, so the old T9 text is just fine by me! It’s nice to have a little data, so you can look something up occasionally, or share an IM with an international buddy. Otherwise, I have zero interest in games, and while I’m an avid music lover, I can wait until I get home, where I can turn on the stereo or pick up that lonely guitar in the corner. A phone is for voice communication for me….the rest is just a bunch of fat that needs to be trimmed. I see people so self-absorbed in their phones that they don’t even have time to be courteous to others around them. Congrats to you for getting it. I’m still getting there. :)

  24. I was in a great dilemma, whether to ditch my smart phone or not. Was afraid to lose it thinking that I might need it during critical situations. But, I never seem to encounter one.

    After going through your blog and other readers opinion, finally I gained confidence that I can run my life without one. Thanks !!

  25. Hi Laura – just read your post, which I realize is over a year old. I’m considering doing the same thing. How is it going now? Do you have any follow-up thoughts to your post now that you’ve lived without your smartphone for some time?

  26. I’ve been on the fence for a while now about ditching my smartphone for a dumbphone. My entire life has been conditioned to care about what people think of me, how many likes I can get on a fake portrayal of my everyday life… this article just tipped the scales! I’m going out this afternoon to grab a $30 dumby and throw away my smartphone.

  27. This resonates with me so much now. I actually just wrote about my smartphone usage on my blog. I lost my iPhone and it has been a blessing. I didn’t go with the dumbphone, but I picked up an inexpensive Ubuntu phone, and it’s been so wonderful. I still may eventually go to the flip dumbphone again, but so far all I’m using this phone for is for music listening and calling/texting. I just left Facebook too, and wow it is freeing. I love being disconnected. Cheers from Norway!

  28. Laura, I’m interested to know if you’ve stuck with this model over the years. I’ve gone back and forth between using a smartphone and a basic phone and I am finding the pull back to basic phone land which is how I cam across your article. Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic if you have or haven’t stayed with this decision! Thanks.

  29. Hey there! I just watched a TEDx Talk yesterday about this topic. I really found everything mentioned to be true. (I have had this strange liking of the “dumb”phones for a long time too. I don’t know why.) So I started considering whether I should ditch my smartphone.
    Now, the only thing I will miss without my Lumia 540 is communication. My dad is somewhere, my sister is somewhere else, and currently my mom and I live somewhere else. And soon, when I get into college, I will move somewhere else too. So I’ve found WhatsApp really useful as it helps us connect with each other.
    But I’m still gonna ditch it. I will figure out something. I, as of now, have decided that I’m gonna keep this smartphone; I mean I’m not gonna throw it in the trash. As someone else had mentioned in the comments about their tablet, I’m just going to use the smartphone for EXTREMELY IMPORTANT and URGENT things. And I will leave it in the house. Or, if I’m going on trips, keep it with me so I can use the GPS if I’m lost or something. However, I will delete all the social media apps.
    I just wanted to confirm that I was going to take this decision. Your post did that. It was brilliant. I loved it. Now, I think I should go for a flip phone :P

  30. Your blog just inspired me to regain my “freedom”. It made me realize so much and it gave me a different view of how life happens around us. Keep inspiring people through your gift.

  31. I am generation X and I’ve had a un-smartphone for 1 year and 6 months. I abhor anti-social media and left facebook over 2 years ago. The me me me narcissism is sickening and toxic. Although I do unique and rare work in the world this can be done via email, phone, and community work. I am thinking of going back to my slider phone and getting a landline. I can’t wait to have a “home phone.” My Dad worked for the phone company so I have fond memories of a home phone. I think it’s time to make the switch. Sometimes I feel like an alien because it seems like the human species isn’t evolving especially when technology and anti-social seems more like mass surveillance and mind control.

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