Commentary: Why you should leave your phone at home

(Alex Dascalu/AQ)

I want you to think back to the last time you went somewhere without your phone. I don’t mean the “Oh shit I drove to the grocery store and forgot it at home” type of thing. I mean, when did you last go out the door and leave it sitting on the counter? 

Can you even remember a time? 

If you’re like me, then you can’t. 

If you’re like me, then it’s probably been years. 

If you’re like me, just the thought of forgetting your phone leaves a panicked knot in your stomach. 

But what’s even more terrifying is the control our technology has over us. We’re addicted to our cellphones. 

I know what you’re thinking: I’m just a Boomer inside a Gen Z’s body, going on about the good old days when school was uphill both ways and you played outside until it was dark.

We’re much better off today and I won’t argue that. I’ll leave the homophobia, sexism and racism to the older generations. We’re more connected and I’m grateful every time I can video call my friends living hundreds of kilometres away.

But what if it’s coming with a cost? I think the Boomers are onto something when they complain about how often we’re on our phones. We need to become less attached because it fuels anxiety and makes it easier to live in a digital world outside of reality.  

I never realized I was one of the addicts until I tried to spend a week without internet when I visited
my granny in Cape Breton. Before going, I told my friends to text me if they needed anything but that I wouldn’t be on my phone much. I figured the break would be nice, that it wouldn’t really impact me. 

Boy, was I wrong. Without the internet to fill up the quiet gaps in my life, the silence ate at me. I felt anxious without my phone in my pocket and I felt alone.

Before, when I felt disconnected, I just checked my SnapMap or scrolled Instagram. This was different because I couldn’t fix that feeling of loneliness.

Did you ever notice how easy it is to lose hours on your phone without realizing it? Well, I felt every minute of every hour in Cape Breton. I felt a scary silence to my solitude that I hadn’t noticed in years. I felt like Atlas trying to hold the weight of reality without a digital world to escape to. It was just the woods, my granny and me. It made me feel almost panicked.

To distract myself, I spent hours every day exploring the woods. Each day grew a little easier and I got used to it. But then my viewpoint changed halfway through the week.

Here’s what happened: I stopped thinking about all that I was missing on social media and started paying attention to what was around me. For the first time, I realized that snow falling had its own distinct sound. I heard the brook behind my granny’s house and understood why people said it sounded like music. I realized then how much I used my phone to escape my daily life and how much I was missing out on every time I left this physical world to enter the digital one on my screen. 

The average person spends more than four hours a day on their phone. That’s a quarter of our waking hours. And thinking of many people I know, myself included, we spend even more time than that with our eyes glued to our screens.

Stepping away from your phone may seem like a small step, but it’s a leap towards a type of life we left behind. A life where you spend time outside and appreciate nature. A life where conversations aren’t featured around this middleman we call a cellphone. A life where there is more to do than sit in front of a screen all day. 

After coming back, I had lots to catch up on and I’m happy to be connected again. But I took a bit of that awareness with me. 

Because of that, my phone has felt a lot like a bra lately: restricting and unnecessary.

So, take it off. Why not let leaving your phone at home be like taking your bra off after a long day? Let it liberate you. Let it be a release, a comfort, instead of a worry. Then see just how much easier your life is when you’re not restrained.