My quest to live without a smartphone

Oscar Quinte was challenged to spend 72 hours without his smartphone - here is how he got on

It was all going perfectly well until half past five on Thursday evening. 

Challenged to spend 72 hours without my smartphone – after Eddie Redmayne and Steve Hilton both testified this week to the life-enriching liberation of going off-grid – I had until that moment found it remarkably easy going. 

The idea of downshifting to an old-fashioned handset, minus email and apps, seems to be having a moment. The eBay sales of retro flip-phones spiked after Adele used one in the video for her single Hello. US Vogue editor Anna Wintour and Rihanna have both been photographed using one. Capitalising on this popularity, phone companies are launching new pared-down handsets that owe more to the Nokia 3310 than the iPhone 6s.

So it was that on Tuesday night, I switched off my phone. How hard could it be? And would I feel better for it?

Dr Christine Grant, occupational psychologist, and member of the Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement Research Group at Coventry University, says she sees many people being worn down by the demands of technology:  “People don’t realise that in this constant ‘at you’ culture, you have to draw boundaries before work starts to impinge on your wellbeing and that of those around you. Stress doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. The long-term implication can be burnout.”

So would heavy clouds lift from my mental landscape? By day three, I had just overcome the impulse to reach for my pocket during any “down” moment. And I did perhaps feel in a calmer state of mind having not had my headphones in whenever on the go. 

But the ubiquity of tech quickly made a mockery of the exercise. I spent the first two days away for work, with a friend. Between her phone and my wifi-enabled iPad, I had 95 per cent of my usual capabilities. In our post-cloud age, the means by which you access your text messages and contacts list becomes incidental. Redmayne even complained that in eschewing his phone he had consigned himself to two hours a day tied to his laptop answering emails. 

So to Thursday at 5.30pm. Having started off as a mere inconvenience, this is when my phoneless existence took a downward turn. I remembered I had a date the following evening.  But a time and a place had not been agreed. Anyone who has had plans ruined by a dead battery will know the particular feeling of impotence. Ironically, a state of anxiety descended for the next 24 hours. Had Eddie Redmayne ruined my chances of finding ‘the one’?

The moment the clock struck 4pm on 15 January, I turned on my phone. I waited. And waited. My date hadn’t texted. But, I thought, at least I am back in one of the most important relationships of all – with my one, my only, my iPhone.

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