REACHING for my iPhone, I felt panic wash over me – it wasn’t in any of my pockets. My eyes darted across the supermarket floor in case I’d dropped it, while I frantically patted my body.
Then I remembered I’d left it charging at home. But rather than feeling relieved, my anxiety levels sky-rocketed.
What if someone needed me? What if I came across the perfect Insta photo opp? What if I was missing out on some vital WhatsApp gossip? In that moment, I realised my smartphone addiction was getting out of hand – something had to be done.
While I’d never say my relationship with tech was toxic, I’m definitely too reliant on it. Uber, Deliveroo and ASOS receive huge wads of my cash, while I’ve been left with a five-second attention span due to non-stop notifications from WhatsApp and social media.
In December, the Cambridge Dictionary announced nomophobia (a fear or worry at the idea of being without your mobile phone or unable to use it) as its word of 2018. It’s something I’m familiar with – and I’m not alone.
However, interestingly, in a bid to tackle this growing addiction, Google and Apple introduced features that can record and limit how much time you spend on your phone, while sales of old-fashioned handsets are up 5%.
I definitely need a digital detox, so when I get home, I charge up an old Nokia, transfer my SIM card and lock my iPhone in a drawer.
My boyfriend Chris promises to keep the key for the next seven days – no matter how much I beg. But can I really go through with it?
I wake up early and drag myself to the gym for 8am. But then my heart sinks – this ancient phone doesn’t have iTunes. Duh. Without musical motivation, I only manage 15 minutes on the treadmill before giving up and heading to work.
As an Instagram junkie, I usually sneak in a quick peek whenever I can, and every 10 minutes I feel my hand reaching for my phone. Thinking about all of the posts I’m missing, FOMO (that’s fear of missing out) hits. I go to bed at 9pm and read a book to distract myself, but my attention wanders and I switch off the light by 10pm.
It’s only Tuesday and I’m exhibiting serious withdrawal symptoms. Before swapping phones, I’d told my friends and family I wouldn’t be contactable via WhatsApp, and I haven’t heard a peep from anyone since Sunday evening.
I tend to solely communicate through the app, but now I’m forced to send old-school text messages, which is awful – the keys are chunky and the really basic predictive text is more of a hindrance than help. I can’t bear it, so I give up. Feeling lonely, I dial my mum.
We have a natter for the first time in ages and it really cheers me up.
At dinner, I try to convince Chris to join my digi-tox, but he just scoffs and checks his iPhone for the latest football scores.
I thought I was coping well today – until I get a text from my best pal at 11am telling me I’m “so behind” on our group WhatsApp, and I’m sent right back to FOMO hell.
I resort to calling her, and while it’s nice to properly chat, it’s time-consuming! When I finish work at 6pm I go for dinner with my friend Rachael.
I’d usually check my work emails through the meal, but now I physically can’t, and I have an engaging conversation instead. Once home, my anxiety rises as I log on to my laptop to check work emails in case I’ve missed anything urgent. I haven’t, and I realise no one cares if you don’t reply to an email within three minutes.
When I take my cheap old Nokia out at the pub tonight, my friends snigger. I can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy as they show each other carefully filtered photos from the week, including a cute snap of my pal’s newborn niece.
I love posting Insta Stories, so I’m gutted I haven’t been able to join in. On the plus side, I am growing attached to the indestructible little brick. It is yet to run out of battery, plus I’ve saved a fortune without easy ASOS access.
It’s Friday night, so Chris and I go for dinner. I still feel disconnected, but now in a liberating way.
Afterwards, Chris notes that I’ve become far more relaxed since I gave up my iPhone habit. We snuggle on the sofa to watch a film and for the first time this week, I don’t yearn to pick up my mobile.
Disaster strikes! Heading from the Tube to a friend’s birthday dinner in Hackney, I have no idea where the restaurant is. After wandering around and searching for what feels like an eternity, I duck into a pub to ask for directions and I finally arrive over half an hour late.
Trying to get home later after a few too many drinks, I panic. Usually I’d use a taxi app, but without any cab numbers saved in my ancient Nokia, I’m screwed.
Stranded outside a pub in the freezing cold at 2am, I feel miserable. Eventually, I call – and wake up – Chris so that he can book me an Uber home.
It’s my final day without my smartphone and as it’s Sunday, I decide to lounge on the sofa and finish my book without being distracted by endless notifications.
When I switch my iPhone back on at 9pm, I’m greeted by 348 WhatsApp notifications!
Frantically reading each one, I feel my shoulders stiffen – it’s sensory overload. On the one hand, I realise how isolated I’ve been over the past week – I’ve missed out on a pregnancy announcement and an impromptu party – but on the other, I can’t deny that ditching my iPhone has been incredibly freeing. Being able to choose how contactable I am is surprisingly empowering.
After seven iPhone-free days, I can honestly say it’s a genuine pleasure to experience my own life in real time without being distracted by everyone else’s.
As I pack away my trusty Nokia in a drawer, I decide that while I could never give up my iPhone for good, perhaps using a “dumb” phone for just one day a week could be the smartest decision I ever make.