I recently took a trip up to Toronto, Ontario on short notice for work. Since I didn’t have a lot of time I didn’t plan anything for my mobile phone and ended up just turning it off while I was there. This ended up being a really interesting unintended experiment for me of temporarily getting off of the “always connected” lifestyle I’ve come to know.
The first couple days it was weird. I felt like I was missing stuff and just felt a general discomfort with the situation. I was suddenly aware of how often I use my Google Maps and Yelp. Especially being in a new city. Perhaps the most noticeable change for me, though, was my tiny down times throughout the day when I would pull out my phone but have nothing to do on it anymore. Waiting in line, waiting for a friend to finish in the bath room, etc were no longer moments to check in to my online world. This left me feeling disconnected, frustrated, and a general sense of missing something or being out of touch.
It wasn’t long though (probably around day 3) that I found myself actually enjoying it. I found that without the ability to always use GPS and Maps I actually learned my way around the city much faster than usual (and I am definitely geographically challenged). I found myself using my short down times to actively think about my mental backlog and pay attention to my surroundings. I definitely felt like I got more out of my short trip to Toronto than I have from other similar trips in the past. But the biggest and best change I noticed was an appreciation for not being constantly interrupted throughout my day. No more Facebook links being shared or Meetup comments or any of the other junk that comes streaming my way throughout the day. This was something I greatly appreciated by the end of my trip.
Its worth mentioning that I never complained (or really actively considered) any of these issues before. It has been a slow change over time that I never really realized had happened. But the abrupt change to zero was very interesting.
I don’t plan to turn off my phone in general now that I’m back. It is an amazing tool and being with out it gave me a new appreciation for how life changing the mobile revolution has been. It did make me decide to be a little more strict on which apps can notify me and how I use my micro downtime throughout the day. I also think it will change how I vacation and I will actively try to eliminate my interruptions when I’m off work and spending time with the wife.
If you haven’t tried disconnecting recently I would give it a go. Find a couple days and just put your phone in airplane mode or turn it off entirely. It might surprise you to see the impact being connected is having on you.