harry ainsworth, phone, social media

I gave up my phone for a whole month and you should do it too

There has never been a better time

Do you ever feel like your days go by like a flash? Like you wake up and before you can blink it’s dark outside? How often do you allocate time to yourself without technology to just process life? Do you feel like your day could be more productive? If your answers to these questions are yes, then giving up your phone might just be the best thing you could possibly do. How would I know? Well, I’ve just turned my phone on for the first time since December 2020.

It’s obvious that too much of a good thing can be bad for you, and that’s the relationship that I’d bet the majority of people have with their phone without even realising it. It’s more than screentime telling you how long you spend on each app: It’s checking your phone knowing there’s no notification, it’s spending hours on Instagram looking at how other people live their lives, it’s being constantly tuned in with 100 different worlds at once – and I’d had enough.

Towards the end of the year, I knew I was becoming increasingly detached from the world around me. So, on December 31st I turned my phone off and, after four weeks, I turned it back on for the first time today. Here’s what I learned during that time.

You’ll quickly realise how addicted you really were

Going to the supermarket and not being able to check how much money is sat in your account is a nervewracking experience. Putting something in the oven and not having a timer quickly at your disposal is a pain in the arse. Dropping something under the table and not having an instant flashlight is always an inconvenience.

Amongst these early difficulties, you’re going to have to put a bit of faith in the idea that the positives will eventually outweigh the negatives.


My phone’s resting place on top of the kitchen cupboard

…but then you’ll wake up one day and feel like you’ve woken up

Yeah, it really is that pretentious.

Once you’ve trained your brain not to reach for your phone every minute, a switch flicks. I’m not being dramatic (okay maybe a little) by saying that emotions suddenly feel more emotional, and you truly feel like you’ve become a lot more present in your life. Using a phone so constantly had completely drained my capacity to have conscious thoughts outside of this TikTok/Instagram bubble I’d frequent, and it felt quite extraordinary.

The void left behind by your phone is filled with activity

This is by far the biggest benefit on this list. You know that irritable fidgety feeling you get when your phone is out of battery or you’ve run out of data, just when you wanted to search something or stalk someone? There’s understandably a lot of that when you give it up altogether, and your brain does what it does best in this situation – it finds something else to focus on.

That very desire to keep yourself busy mixed with newfound boredom is the perfect breeding ground for productive activity. It will feel like there are more hours in the day, and you’ll do more in those hours than you used to.

Every other bit of technology in your house will get used more than ever

harry ainsworth, cactus

I started taking loads of photos on my laptop webcam and I don’t know why

You’ve lost your timer/flashlight/calculator/camera, and that means naturally you’ll find other pieces of technology to do the job. For me, my free Google Nest (thanks Spotify) and laptop have finally realised their true value.

You’ll feel super smug about your progress

I started to become that guy who knew he was living a more fulfilled life than all of his normie phone-obsessed adversaries, and it felt great.

Turning into an anti-social media expert overnight, I started to watch Jaron Lanier videos on how social media is ruining civilisation and tutted quietly to myself when my coworkers spoke about things they’d seen on Instagram. I was finally the captain of SS Harry Ainsworth, on a one-way voyage to not giving a fuck about what other people were doing with their lives – toot toot!

Conversation matters so much more than it ever used to

Think about how often you have a face to face conversation with someone whilst you have a phone in your hand. It stops the conversation from flowing and distracts you from truly thinking about what’s coming out of your mouth. Lose the phone, and the discussions become a whole lot more involved – I promise.

Family and friends will think you’re dead

giving up phone

Sorry Alex

Now comes the part for when you turn your phone on. If you’re stupid like me you won’t tell the people closest to you that you’re giving up your phone, so it’s probably worth, like… doing that.

…and there will be a load of notifications

This is what will split the strong from the weak when it comes to giving up your phone – the fear that you’re missing out. From missed conversations to not being involved in plans to just not being in the loop with internet memes, there is so much going on within this device for you to miss. But does any of that mean anything?

For starters, there aren’t any plans going on at the moment. Memes mean nothing, and conversations seldom do either. Above all else, looking through my notifications showed me that I had missed absolutely nothing of consequence.

notifications, whatsapp, tiktok

Sorry all, but I really didn’t miss out on anything here

So there you have it. There has not been a better time to give up your phone, and there likely never will be again. As technology demands more and more of our attention, when are we going to say enough is enough? Turning my phone back on showed me that the world hadn’t stopped turning in those four weeks that it was off. It was still the same old phone with the same old features, but things had changed with me.

I took an hour to reply to messages and check my bank balance. I browsed TikTok and had a good laugh. Then I held down the power button, slid the bar to power off, and placed it back on its little perch above the kitchen cupboard, not to be touched again.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• I took a month off social media: Here’s what I learnt

• Here’s how to see exactly how much of your life you waste on Instagram and Facebook

• Find my Friends: The phenomenon that has changed life forever