Teenager goes phoneless for a week and survives

Enduring a hardcore social media cleanse helped me realize the things I was missing while fixated on my phone

Without my cellphone to pass my time with, naturally, I had to try on every item in my closet.

Chloe Marco

Without my cellphone to pass my time with, naturally, I had to try on every item in my closet.

Lucy Marco

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What’s something you can’t live without? OK yes, water, food, air, the essentials. But what about something you always carry with you? The first thing you wake up to in the morning? Or the last thing you see before you fall asleep? Something you automatically pick up when you’re the slightest bit bored? That’s right ladies and gentlemen, whether it’s an iPhone or an Android, it’s our phones. Today, it is crucial to communicating, staying updated and entertained. 

This school year, students have noticed the new rules on cell phone use in the classroom. Our principal, Ms. Brandi Hosack, explained to me the rationale behind  the new policies: “So the purpose behind the cell-phone policy, I don’t even like that word policy really, is that we want you guys to engage with one another.”

The new rules strongly restrict taking out your phone at any point of the day on campus. Some students think it’s unfair, but as Ms. Hosack has found, “When I came in, my goal was to meet with as many teachers as I could. I probably had 50 teacher meetings over the summer. And so through talking to them and asking, ‘What are some things that can improve teaching or make your job a bit easier?’ over and over again they said that cell phones are an issue.”

In a recent Shield survey conducted on the MacJournalism Insta account, a majority of students admitted that cell phones and social media distract them from getting tasks done. Around 60 percent of Mac students who responded to the poll admitted to being addicted to social media, myself included. 

That’s why for a week, I have personally taken on the challenge of not using my phone at all during any point. A week is a long time to blind myself from the world of instant communication. But I hope to discover through firsthand experience both the hardships and the benefits from living without my phone for a while. Some might think it can be easily done; others may think it’s a test of survival. Either way, I will document the events of this journey as I trek the uncharted and discover the unknown territory of life off the grid.


Day One

I did play some of my records … and found other ways to entertain myself, like trying on every piece of clothing I own.”

Everything started off fine being offline. I paid no attention to it during school for the most part, every once in a while reaching for my phone to check the time, only to discover that my phone wasn’t there. The most painful part of the day was not having my phone to listen to my music as I went on my biweekly long walk. I had to listen to the sounds of nature and the city, which was boring and weird, but probably good for me to experience.  The walk was not nearly as enjoyable without music blasting at full volume in my ears, I must say. 

In the evening when I’m free, I usually Snapchat and call my friends. But since that was not an option, I just sat and stared longingly out the window in complete silence.
OK maybe not, but I did play some of my records which I haven’t gotten around to using in a while and found ways to entertain myself, like trying on every piece of clothing I own.

It was actually very peaceful. I felt like a teenager in all those ’80s coming-of-age films that I always imagined to be in when I was 7 years old. 

Day Two

When I came back to school, all of my friends were talking about something that went down in our  group chat. It was strange

 not knowing what they were talking about, which was what I feared most about this experiment: being out of the loop. But they quickly filled me in.  That evening my friend had to contact my mom to make plans with me, which made me feel like a kid again when the parents were the ones who organized “play dates.” 

Other than that, I did feel much more productive than I usually am without the distraction of social media. I powered through homework and chores much faster than I usually do. 


Day Three

It felt very surreal to see every person in the classroom instantly move their head down at the angle of a prayer and motionlessly stare and scroll through their screens.”

Today, I had a moment of clarity. In Algebra II, the teacher gave the class a brain break where she allowed students to use their phones for about five minutes. It felt very surreal to see every person in the classroom instantly move their head down at the angle of a prayer and motionlessly stare and scroll through their screens. For about five minutes, it was truly strange seeing every person look identical, something I’d never really noticed before. 

I also noticed that finding your ride home is very difficult without a phone, particularly in a downpour..


Day Four 

At this point I feel completely unaware of what’s happening on social media platforms. To be honest, there have been several times where I felt very tempted to check if I have any notifications from any of my friends. It’s almost as if I can hear it calling me from a distance. 

I did have to use my phone today for educational purposes (I know, I know, I’m sorry). I had to briefly call my friend so that we could finish a history project (and who uses landlines anymore). The things I do for school. 


Day Five 

When I had nothing to do, it was difficult to resist the urge to just reply back to the potential texts or snaps or whatever else I’m missing out on. When I’m bored I don’t know what to do with my life, which is sad. 

Tonight, I completely forgot about this experiment, and I just impulsively picked up my phone because I was bored. About eight minutes in, I realized what I had done.  I was pretty disappointed for losing my no-phone streak, but I took it as a learning experience. Like a lot of others my age, using my phone is simply ingrained into me, to just scroll through some Instagram posts or stories whenever we have a moment to spare. It’s just a thoughtless habit we’ve developed over time. 

Day Six

I locked my phone in a drawer and went about my day today. I always have that nervous feeling that I’m forgetting something. But I have to remind myself that I purposely left it at home.

The sky looked like a painting so I reached for my pocket to take a picture. I ended up having to “take a picture with my mind.” I miss being able to take pictures of scenes or images that I want to keep forever. But I’m capable of enjoying things in the moment and just experiencing it, rather than pulling out my phone to frantically take a picture. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp on to that.


Day Seven

The home stretch. It seems so easy but at the same time so hard, I just powered through. I can’t tell if I’m excited to get back on my phone or not. I’m looking forward to seeing what I missed and to be able to freely communicate with my friends but at the same time I’ll miss the no-distraction part of not having it. 

Going back to life with my phone, I think I’ve learned a good balance.”

Throughout this journey I’ve realized how much I depend on my phone and it’s a lot more than I thought it would be. Going back to life with my phone, I think I’ve learned a good balance. I noticeably use my phone less than I did before and I’m able to control the amount of time I spend on it more. Life is livable without it. 

Social media cleanses are always an option, but what about giving up your phone altogether? Try it. See what happens. Trek the uncharted and discover the unknown.