Like 56 percent of the American adult population, I used to be a dependent smartphone user who never went anywhere without Yelp-ing it first. That was, until a fateful day in June, two weeks after I moved to New York City, when, by destiny or by my own dumb carelessness, the big, bad city took my smartphone away.
With no warranty and no insurance plan, it was back to basics. And by “basics” I mean a flip phone, purchased circa 2003. Shockingly, I wasn’t mad about it. OK, I was a little mad… until I realized my life was way better.
Here are 11 things I gained when I lost my smartphone:
1. A Better Sense Of Direction
Now that I was rockin’ a flip phone, I often had no flippin’ clue where I was. Without that trusty tour guide otherwise known as Google Maps, I had to get my bearings the old-fashioned way: wandering around in circles.
After a couple of weeks, I realized I had memorized more streets and could even — gasp! — read the New York City subway map. Science confirms it: My hippocampus was getting a CrossFit-style workout in “memory and spatial orientation.” It’s the difference between being spoon-fed and learning how to hold the damn fork.
2. The Living, Breathing Alternative To Siri
Still, I did get lost. A lot. So I did what my smartphone had let me avoid: I asked people for directions. You might be surprised to hear that people give way better directions than Siri, particularly if you’re more of a “landmark”-oriented type.
3. Silent Idle Time
When I was playing Candy Crush, my brain was hard at work, uh, organizing candy. Now when I’m bored, my brain is actually hard at work preparing me for my next task. Neuroscientists laud the power of “idle” brain time to help organize and process information. Plus, boredom can encourage daydreaming and lead to creative thinking. Spending those spare 5 minutes in La La Land, instead of trying to beat your high score, could possibly lead to your “Eureka!” moment.
4. A Filter For My Own Babbling
Texts can be super convenient and useful, but sometimes you’re kind of like:
Plenty of my daily text messages weren’t that important; they were just really easy to type, send and deliver. I find texting on a clunkier phone a rather slow and annoying process that I am only willing to complete when the topic is urgent, hilarious or meaningful. Voila! Pure laziness trimmed the fat out of my day-to-day SMS-ing. Plus, instead of live-streaming my every thought, I’d wait for face-to-face communication. (This is also a good way to curbs those achy thumbs that may or may not be warning you of early-onset carpal tunnel syndrome.)
5. Old-Fashioned Face Time
“Staring at screens constantly takes you away from people and gives you a passive outlet where you don’t have to interact with the world. Like television, the light draws you in and numbs your senses,” according to Cary Cooper, professor at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. Without a smartphone to distract me, I snapped out of that digital hypnosis and started looking people in the eye.
6. A Permanent Selfie Vacay
Selfie connoisseurs, beware! All that Instagramming can actually hurt your real life relationships. Smartphones make picture-taking super easy and convenient, but they also take you out of the moment. Losing my phone meant bidding farewell to my duck face, for good.
7. An Excuse Not To Check Email
Our access to email — rather than the content itself — often fuels our sense of urgency. Still, we check our email compulsively. Seventy percent of emails sent to information workers were looked at within 6 seconds, according to a study by the University of California, Irvine. (That’s a lot of people on a lot of mental hamster wheels!) Taking a much-needed siesta from my digital mailbox was seriously relaxing.
8. A Better Chance At Finding Love
Your smartphone makes you laugh, wakes you up in the morning and reminds you to take your birth control. So, is it basically your second boyfriend? Some therapists worry that smartphone distractions are hurting intimacy. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re eating dinner with your date and his 200 favorite apps.
Whether you’re playing the field or in a long-term relationship, if you’re constantly breaking eye contact to update your Facebook status, you’re missing out on some level of real-life connection. I quickly found that date nights were way better sans smartphone.
9. A Full Night’s Sleep
Do you wake up feeling sleepier than you did when your head hit the pillow? Our phones could be to blame. Stepping away from the smartphone world (albeit unintentionally) helped reset my R.E.M. cycle and curbed my morning blues.
10. An Old-Fashioned Planner
In the smartphone era of organization, there’s a way to calculate your daily caloric intake, track your grocery list and scrapbook your vacations. But, before there was “an app for that,” there was a way to do it yourself. My old-fashioned planner made tracking my life way easier than the 10 “productivity” apps I was attempting to juggle. Sometimes all that life-hacking is kind of just plain ol’ hacking away at your life.
11. About 75 Minutes Of My Day Back
iPhones take up an average of 75 minutes of your day, and Androids suck up about 49 minutes. Just think of what you could do with that time: cook, run a few miles or watch some reruns of “Breaking Bad.” The possibilities are endless!
Of course, you don’t need to lose your $300 investment to apply what I learned about life without a smartphone. Remember: You own your smartphone; your smartphone doesn’t own you.