5 Things That Happen When You Put Down Your Phone

I was at the post office yesterday standing in line. Immediately, almost intrinsically, I was compelled to pull out my phone. I flipped from one social media account to the next, Instagram, to Snapchat, and then to e-mails and texting. I was longing for something to do, and feeling almost uncomfortable if I didn't have my phone in my hand.

I don't keep it out when I get to the counter though, my mother always told me that was rude. As the line moved (so slowly, why is that always the case at the post office?) and I was next to be helped I slipped my phone back in my jacket pocket and scanned the room.

Not one. single. person. was present. All 8 people behind me were completely engrossed in their phones. A little girl in a stroller—that I hadn't even noticed in the 15 minutes I stood on line—was entertained by an iPad. She looked up from her cartoon and locked eyes with me. I made faces like most anyone would do when seeing a toddler. I looked like a buffoon—but who would notice, anyway? They were all laser focused on their phones. She was entertained by me for a moment, smiling, but quickly returned her focus back to her video.

I got the counter, dropped off my package, picked up some stamps, and continued on with my day—but with a new purpose in mind. I had quite a few errands to run, so I'd decided to challenge myself to not take my phone out of my pocket (unless I was getting a phone call).

Standing on line at the post office made me wonder... What on earth did I used to do on line before social media and cell phones ruled the world? I imagine I just simply existed, daydreamed, or spaced out entirely. Truthfully though, I couldn't really remember. Any time in my day that I was in a moment of transition I'd noticed that I inherently always turned to my phone. I thought of the little girl in her stroller playing on an iPad...surely she will never remember a time when technology wasn't there to entertain her.

So, when I set out on the challenge to stay off my phone I hoped to simply notice more things. I certainly did, but I learned a lot, too.

This is absurd....when you actually look up and see it.

This is absurd....when you actually look up and see it.

1. You actually talk to people.

Ah, so this is what I used to do in line before social media and cell phones. How naturally it came back to me! I'm undoubtedly a people person, but I hand't realized how much I shut people out—and shut down potential conversations—when my eyes were glued to my phone. I had some great conversations, and doled out some compliments. It was nice to connect with people IRL, even if only briefly.

2. You run late less, and consequently, stress less.

This day of errands included 2 doctor appointments. I'm always racing the clock, not because I don't plan well—I'm just often distracted. Like I'd said, when I'm in moments of transition I turn to my phone. To keep me busy, to act as a companion, out of habit... Whatever the reason, it's always in my hand taking me away from the present moment.

Having 45 minutes between my last stop and my doctor appointment I headed home. Now, normally, I would sit outside, on my phone. I would intend to sit for only 15 minutes before I'd have to get up and go to avoid being late. That 15 minutes would quickly spiral into 25 as I got caught up in friends' Snapchat stories, which would then lead to me FREAKING out when I realized I had just about 20 minutes to do a 30 minute commute.

Not today, though.

It felt strange to just sit and do nothing else. It felt good, too, though. I also paid much more attention to my dog—which made him wildly happy. I actually was aware of my timing, and was able to cruise smoothly, and peacefully to the doctor. No heart palpitations or road rage. Plus, I made it to the office with 10 minutes to spare.

3. You listen better.

It annoys my fiancé, and my parents, to no end when I reach for my phone in the middle of a conversation. It's a habit I've been longing to break—I'm a little embarrassed it took this challenge to force me to make a conscious effort to put it down. It made a world of a difference though, to them, and to me. Without the distraction I was, as expected, much more engaged in the conversation.

It irritates my fiancé even more when we're watching a movie and I pick up my phone. Naturally, I miss a pivotal moment of the film and beg “What just happened!?” To which of course I hear, “If you'd put your phone down, you'd know.” My next challenge will be to sit through an entire show or movie without touching my phone—regardless of whether or not my group chat messages exceed 75.

4. You stay present.

Putting my phone away and actually focusing in on what was happening around me was a pretty enlightening experience. I was present, and aware of everything—I noticed things I would have otherwise missed.

 5. You feel better—physically and mentally.

Tech-neck is REAL. I hadn't noticed the way my posture shifted when I was on my phone until I looked around and saw countless people hunched over theirs. I'm sure as I continue on with making this a full-time lifestyle change I'll notice the physical benefits more. Though, I will say that the less strain on my eyes was a welcome, and noticeable, effect. 

Mentally I would say this: not looking at Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or Facebook all day turned out to be the biggest blessing. Who doesn't scroll through their feed and think “I wish I could be doing that.” Much like tech-neck, FOMO is real, too. The saying is true, though, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Eliminating the feeds that make me feel inadequate or like I'm not “living my best life” made me feel better about my life. I wasn't comparing what I was doing to what ANYONE else was doing. I was just living, man. L-I-V-I-N-G. Tuning out from all of that made me wonder why I should ever tune back in again.

So much life happens beyond the screen, people. Challenge yourself, too, and put it down.