life events

Moving Back To Dumb – Why I Gagged My Smartphone

Some of the funniest commercials on television these days are the smartphone commercials. My favorite is the Windows Phone commercial that takes place at a wedding, and all the iPhone and Android people get into a giant fist fight while a couple Windows phone people stand contentedly above the fray with their more “no nonsense”, less trendy type smartphones.

That commercial made me chuckle the first time I watched it. Then it stressed me out, thinking about it.

What makes people anxious? Traffic, construction noise, war, disease, crowds, trans-fats, gangsta rap, congress, the dentist, children, marriage…They all induce stress in me as much as the next person, but you know what really gets to me? That Android phone bump thing you see people do.

And the smartphone “zone out” you see everywhere gets my heart racing, especially when I catch myself doing it.


I watched a Vlog by a friend of mine recently, where he talked about a woman who got rid of her smartphone in order to fight her OCD behavior. She couldn’t go more than five minutes without checking her e-mail or her Facebook, so she dumped her phone. I wholeheartedly applaud this lady’s wisdom and bravery. Her action inspired me. I quickly began devising ways that I too could divest myself of this glowing, rectangular ball-and-chain in my pocket – stress-broadcasting, attention-snaring, zombie making little racket maker it is! Unfortunately, it is not so simple for me. I can’t deny that I’ve come to depend on the burping, chirping device to properly perform at my job. It’s the thing that reminds me to do everything – carries my constantly changing calendar, guides me to onsite meetings, links me to company CRM tools – not to mention, keeps me precariously bound to planet Earth with its onboard music, Podcasts and Pandora radio features. That damn iPhone gives me the abilities of three men. Without it, I’m like Tony Stark without his Iron Man suit, though not nearly as smart, funny, rich or good looking.


So, the question becomes, in our current times, is it possible to continue to excel professionally without the aid of a fully featured smartphone device? I don’t pretend to know, but I’m attempting to find out (sort of). Nearly two weeks ago, I gagged my iPhone by deactivating all features, other than those I considered absolutely necessary. No more e-mail. No more Facebook. No more web. No more WordPress. Pandora radio? Yeah, I still have that – call it psychosis prevention.

I hit my first hiccup two days in. I needed to attend a gotomeeting on my phone – a feature I’d kept available – but I hadn’t saved the meeting ID or conference call number, so I had to temporarily reactivate my e-mail just to retrieve the login. Then, when I attempted to tap the short-cut in the e-mail, it wouldn’t work because the web browser was disabled. Seriously? Derailed after only two days?? Still, I am undeterred. With a little more forethought, I can avoid predicaments like that initial one, and the time since has shown me that it is worth it to figure this out.

Since the great iPhone retardation, my mind has felt so much less frazzled. One of the worst feelings is to receive an e-mail when you are in no position to respond to it, especially when you really want and need to respond as soon as you see it because the content therein so excited or incensed you that you simply will not be able to function properly until that message is responded to NOW! Ugh…no thank you. I’m done having my attention hijacked by matters that I’m in no condition to attend to. It occurs to me that we have all been unwittingly sold into slavery to a legion of techno-taskmasters of our own creation. All these clamorous devices, digital whips in hand, they scream at us day and night, and their collective message remains always the same – YOU MUST BE ALWAYS REACHABLE! YOU MAY NOT STOP! YOU MUST BE ALWAYS REACHABLE! YOU MAY NOT HAVE QUIET! YOU MUST BE ALWAYS REACHABLE! YOU MUST! YOU MUST! YOU MUST! I suppose my iPhone is still screaming, but I don’t hear it as much through the restraints I’ve placed upon it. I hear its cries when I’m waiting in line somewhere, or in any other of those in-between moments of the day, when the most logical thing becomes to utilize those precious moments, and Siri’s muffled voice wriggles from my right pants pocket, “Untie me, just for a second! I’ll make it worth your while! I have e-mail for you! I have entertainment to fill this fracture in time, this void, this void, this void in you, I can fill it!” I’ll admit, her digitized cries tugged at my attention for a time, but I’ve gotten over it. Challenges remain; I’m certain. The first time I lose a sale and blame it on my inability to instantly access my e-mail, I’ll be tempted powerfully. When that time comes, I will try to recall times like this moment I’m in here – writing, uninterrupted. Removing thorns from your flesh is far less precarious when your attention is undivided.

What say you, then? Is anybody else inspired to put a gag on their smartphone? Maybe we could start a club or a support group.

25 replies »

  1. I am not joining your club Luke since I just finally got a smart phone! However, I do not have the same responsibilities and stresses you do, nor do I feel I am ruled by my phone. I do applaud your brave efforts to tide the stem if insanity Luke!

    • Perhaps when I retire, I’ll remove my phone’s chains. Lord only knows what humankind will be hooked on by then. I suppose by then we will have undergone a regression into less tech. I can always hope…

  2. I still haven’t made the switch to a smartphone. I have talk and text and I can take crummy pics on my dumbphone, but that’s it. I’ll admit, part of the non-switch is due to the extra costs for all the smartphone stuff, but part of the reason is because I know I will become a slave to it. There will be too many cool features I will want to mess around with and I will waste my days with my nose stuck to my phone.

    So, for now, I remain smartphoneless.

  3. I agree… the technology that was supposed to make our lives easier has only served to tether us and distract us (read enslave)… so… mine is a 3G cell – voice & text only… which I got because my college-age kids needed something… I’m known to turn it off (not easy), which (though I only get 3-4 calls a month) has a noticeable and positive impact on my psyche.

    • Have you seen the film “Shadowlands”? There’s a scene where a telephone is being installed in CS Lewis’ home for the first time, and he is lamenting that he’ll be expected to run to the phone anytime anybody wants to reach him. He’d be appalled at how out of control we’ve become all these decades later.

  4. Nicely done… I have to admit this is similar to the dumbphone challenge that we did about a year ago. We did it in an effort to make a $100 family plan a reality. For $35 you can pick up a good feature phone… Then for $25 a month, you can get unlimited talk and text on T-Mobile’s network or $30 for AT&T’s… It was actually nice to leave the devices behind for a bit.

    That said, there are those few moments where we needed an email (though you can email people via MMS if needed) or had to look something up… And those moments were tough.

    As for me? I’m on a $40 unlimited everything plan with that aforementioned “Windows Phone” and love it. My phone replaced my computer, point and shoot camera and my organizer. I’m pretty sure that I would have an easier time giving up my computer full time than the few features of my smartphone that I “need” daily.

    So, long story short… If you want to drop your bill, go prepaid – you’ll save about $40 a month on the plan and another $20-30 in taxes. Then cut back on the usage when you don’t feel like you “need to get your money’s worth” from it. I have free SIM cards for anyone that wants to switch – just message me!

  5. Great article, dude. And thanks for the link to my video! Based on reading your article (which was inspired by my video which was inspired by a story on NPR…*head shake*) I’ve decided to disable my new mail notifications for my work email. I have it on my phone only to check in once in awhile when I’m out of the office to make sure that nothing blows up or to find out if someone’s called in sick, etc. when I’m on my way in to the office.

    But I think I can handle checking it every once in awhile rather than being reminded that I’m “always on” by the dang pulsing reminder.

    Thanks for your honesty and the re-inspiration (like re-gifting, but different).

  6. I believe in accepting reality/rules as it exist then I try to create healthy respectful boundaries in order to live peacefully. I’ve applied the same mind set regarding my smartphone. I remain set in the belief if I’m driven to distraction it is not my smartphone, I take full responsiblity for using my smartphone as a tool for such nonsense!

    • So very true, Lotta. I suppose it’s a great sign of maturity then that I recognized my own inability toward self control and shackled the object of my obsession. Or something like that. šŸ™‚

  7. I admire your strength and bravery in even TRYING the smartphone gag experiment. I’d do it but I’m too weak. I admit it. I would miss my phone too much. I love that little gadget. It’s 5.2 ounces of heaven.

  8. Oh, many a chuckle contained in here! I especially love the smartphone version of the zombie apocalypse! Having recently obtained the much anticipated and dreaded smartphone, I have to concur on all of the above… There might even be some kind of smartphone PTSD condition diagnosed in years to come… All those notification sounds give me palpitations…so I’ve had to switch them all off except the actual phone ones. Not sure when it became acceptable for us all to interrupt each other constantly, but it’s a curse.

  9. I was thinking of doing something drastic and you have pushed me over the edge. I have just given my smart phone to my son ( 11) who knows far more about it then I do, and I have his ordinary boring phone. This means all I can do it take calls and make calls. We’ll see how this goes!

  10. I think a lot of people would struggle to go without their precious phone and all its features, so nice work on trying to quit.

    I own a blackberry, no internet, does the basics – I don’t want games etc on it.

    Unfortunately I have a tablet, which if I’m at home is like some visual crack. I try and restrain myself, as I have other stuff to do…tomorrow lol

    Thanks for the add.

    • Ah, yes…there is the tablet situation. I admit I’m not prepared to divorce myself from my iPad. Mostly, it’s because it is my primary writing tool. My two most cherished possessions are my iPad and my car. With the car, I can run away at a moments notice. With the iPad, I can escape in a different way. Both are escapes. I should probably talk with the therapist about this…

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