I got my first cell phone when I was nearly thirty years old. It was a piece of technology about the size of a candy bar, which I used only to make phone calls. A couple years later I also began using my phone for sending text messages — a laborious process requiring me to press the number key correlating with my desired letter (for example, to say “hi.” I’d press the number four twice for “h” to appear, then three more times for the letter “i”).
There have been many upgrades in the fifteen years since that first phone and the technology is advancing faster all the time. I now use my phone daily to send emails, write articles, edit newsletters, stay in touch on social media, take photos, listen to music and podcasts, and see where my teen driver is. As easy as this technology has made my life, I’ve also noticed some things it seems to be stealing from me: time, focus, peace and productivity, to name a few, and I wondered if making some changes on my phone for a week and a half would actually make a mental and emotional difference.
I asked a few friends if they would join me in the experiment, putting their own boundaries on their phone usage and recording their findings each evening with a list of reflection questions.
Although I had a feeling there was a connection between my phone use and both my mental & emotional health, I was surprised to see that each participant mentioned at least one of the following findings multiple times: more clarity, less anxiety, more peace, and better focus.
On the flip side, every participant noted reaching for or checking their phones over 20 times (this number dramatically dropped as the week went on), feeling a necessity to be on their phone, FOMO (fear of missing out), or an overall “itch” to get on social media.
As mentioned above, the habit appears to be one that can be relatively quickly broken, as the number of mindless “phone checks” dropped drastically as the week went on. Some participants even noted feeling more free, due to not having their phone glued to them.
Another positive take-away was being present. Every participant mentioned an increase in connecting with the people actually in the room (spouse, children, co-workers), in addition to motivation to go out and be with people, rather than stay home and “scroll.”
Lasty, all participants mentioned more productivity at work, at home and/or found time to read books or enjoy another hobby.
Here are some things the participants had to say:
“I realized that I am on my phone WAY TOO MUCH and for no reason. I can be much more present by just putting my phone aside...especially when I'm around my kids. I missed some of the apps and how they make my life a little easier, but I definitely need to find a balance in the future.”
“This is getting easier each day. I am realizing how quick I am to ease my boredom (or even just avoid a moment of stillness) and that is alarming!”
“We actually had a date night outside with no phones and it was awesome!”
“I reached out to some people via text instead of social media and it felt much more personal and a stronger connection.”
“(I found time for) reading, baking and just extra moments to sit and be quiet.”
“It’s frustrating to think about how many hours I waste, when I could recharge in other ways.”
As you can see, the participants and I had many positive take-aways from this experiment and I, for one, am sticking with several of the changes I made. If you feel like your phone has more control over you than you’d like, read on for tips on how to lose your phone in ten days.
Boundary setting tips for your phone use:
Use an app like Screen Time, Moment or Our Pact to track/control your phone activity.
Move social media and other entertainment apps off of your home screen.
Choose one day per week for a complete fast from your phone.
Put your phone away (leave it in a different room) when you are with other people.
Ask a friend or your spouse to hold you accountable to your boundaries.
Create “no phone zones” in your home, such as at the dinner table, in bed rooms or during family time.
When you reach for your phone, mindfully ask yourself if you have an actual need or if you are trying to numb out, escape boredom, avoid interacting with others, etc.
Want to try our experiment? Here are the questions we answered at the end of each day:
How many times did you reach for or think about reaching for your phone when you didn’t need it or an app you deleted? (less than 10, 10 - 20, 20 - 30, more than 40)
On a scale of 1-5, did you feel an emotional difference, like more peace, less anxiety, or mental clarity? (If you answered 3-5, what emotional difference did you feel?)
Did you find you were able to do anything extra with your time or finish daily tasks quicker? If yes, what were you able to accomplish or what extra things did you have time for?
On a scale of 1-5 how much more engaged in what was going on around you did you feel?
Overall, did you have any other take-aways from the experiment today?
God wants us to enjoy the lives He’s given us, but we must stay aware of anything threatening to have too great a hold. Have you found helpful ways to use the blessing of technology without letting it get a grip on you?
Meet the Author!
Heather McAnear is a wife, mom, author and speaker with a passion for sharing God's truth to help women understand their uniquely beautiful design and how to use it for God's glory! In fact, Heather hosts the Uniquely Beautiful Stories podcast on iTunes in hopes do just that! She loves teaching young married couples with her husband, homeschooling their three children, traveling the world, enjoying good chocolate and long conversations in coffee shops. CRBC has been her church home for two decades and she is thrilled to be part of the Women's Ministry team, helping women connect with each other and grow in their walk with Jesus!