How Getting Rid of My Cellphone Two Years Ago Changed My Life

You probably have a lot of things you wish you could spend more time on. What if you could make one change in your life that would allow for more of this?

‘Recycling a Cellphone’
‘Recycling a Cellphone’ (photo: Air Images / Shutterstock)

The first time I ever saw a mobile phone was probably around 1981. I was around 14 and a friend of one of my older brothers had his own business, and he found it necessary to stay in touch with his customers when he was away from the office. So, he had a “bag phone” in his work van.

I was intrigued with this device — about the size of a loaf of bread. It struck me as the kind of thing that superheroes or spies might have at their disposal. I remember thinking how marvelous it would be if we could all have one of these.

Fast-forward 40 years and that day has obviously come. As early as 2003, roughly two-thirds of American adults already owned cellphones. With the introduction of the “smart” phone in 2007, mobile phone usage spiked even more to where now, 97% of adults own a mobile phone of some sort, with 85% specifically owning a smartphone. (These numbers are 100% and 96%, respectively, for those between the ages of 18-49.)

But is it “marvelous?” Are our lives better because we have been so empowered with this technology? Have we grown spiritually because we have apps for prayer and Scriptural reading? Have our friendships and family relationships blossomed because we’re more “connected” to knowledge beyond the reach of every generation of humanity that preceded us?

I began to question this somewhere near the beginning of early 2020. When I attempted to switch phones and phone companies near the end of that year, I ran into some frustration with the process and made a spontaneous decision to abandon my phone altogether. My wife was concerned. My kids found this to be rather odd. Some of my friends were mildly annoyed that I was slightly harder to contact. I had no particular plan in mind other than that it felt like a worthwhile experiment.

It's been two years now, and I still don’t have a phone. No smartphone. Not even a flip phone. Nothing. (I do, however, have an Internet voice number that I access only via my computer. And I have email, of course. The point is not feeling obligated to be “connected” everywhere I go.) Turns out others, like Matt Fradd and Dave Rubin, regularly disconnect from technology as a way to reset their systems and perspective. Like Matt and Dave, I’ve discovered that life is more interesting than it was just a few years ago and I’ve regained a precious gift — time. There is now time to get things done at work. There’s time to volunteer for things I found completely unrealistic a few years ago. There’s time to read. (I’m reading at least five times as many books per year as I was in the past — including a lot of those “some day I ought to …” books that others had so often recommended.) There’s more time to notice my surroundings as I’m walking to my car or through a park or through my neighborhood, or just standing in line waiting for something. The world is actually a pretty interesting place! Who knew?

There’s time for conversations. You know — those face-to-face exchanges of words and ideas, sharing of sorrows and joys and laughter — with people standing right in front of you. It’s a bonus that, when I am engaging in one of these discussions, I never have the distraction of a device there beckoning me to make this person second priority. (I’ve noticed people seem to appreciate that.) There’s also far more time to pray — without the excuse that I just don’t have time.

Additionally, not being connected much to news and social media has reduced fear, anxiety and worry about things I can’t control anyway. And yet, life goes on unabated without me being totally aware of such events.

You’re probably very busy. You probably have a lot of things you wish you could spend more time on — like your relationships with family, friends and God, and just generally growing as a person. What if you could make one change in your life that would allow for more of this? Going phoneless or disconnecting from screens may not be for everyone. But, how different might your life be if you try it for a month? For a year? I’m sure glad I did.