I Challenged Myself to Put My Phone Down for 5 Days: This is what I learned…


Arlen Urbina Escobar, Student Writer

Cell phones have taken over the future, so much that they control us instead of us controlling them. Soon they’ll grow legs and walk just like us.

Don’t get me wrong, cell phones help us navigate and find routes, they help us see our loved ones that live far from us, they help us find nearby food places and do many other cool things.

Cell Phones become more helpful and more key in our lives as each year goes by. Cell phone companies like Apple and Samsung develop new models for their phones with new features and looks every year. Making their audiences more invested in their products. Which draws attention to the eye but not so much to the thought of how harming they can be.

But the problem about cell phones is that they are very addicting– with their social media apps, games and other entertainment, humans and cell phones are almost inseparable. This codependence is responsible for many of the mental health issues our society faces. They are causing depression and taking up too much of our time and even causing too much stress buildup. However, we must not allow cell phones to overpower our everyday lives.

Therefore, the main reason as to why I am doing this challenge is because I have noticed that over quarantine (mainly) my phone has been glued to my hands and I can’t seem to find time for my everyday tasks. Stress buildup is also caused by procrastination and looking at my screen every two seconds. This would change my view on cell phones and help me balance my time of productivity for the better.

This wasn’t as simple as it sounds. The challenge consisted of me setting up a time that was accommodating for my school schedule to spend without my cell phone (it being from 2:00 pm to 6 or 7 pm). This meant that I would put my phone in a place where I knew that I wouldn’t keep passing by or be so close to it. The more I saw my phone in that spot, the more tempted I would feel to grab it, which is why this step is so important.

These are some of the takeaways from this challenge…

1.) Time went by very S L O W.

As a teenager, spending a lot of time on my phone was not a hard task. Most of the time I didn’t even know that I was spending as much as 8 hours of my day on my phone–when I could have been doing something more productive.

As each day was planned by me in my journal, even then I would run out of things to do. My first thought (of course) was my cell phone. It wasn’t because there was nothing to do, but because I was not used to not using my phone or holding it in my hands for a long period of time.

According to a survey sent out to RHS students, about 81% of students said they spend about 6 to 10 hours on their cell phones. A surprising 9% said they use it over 15 hours and 9% 1 to 5 hours. It is obvious that more students use their cell phones for a long variety of time than for not that long.

This doesn’t only happen to teenagers, it is adults too. Cell phones are addicting for anyone as long as they know how to
use one.
My screen time for last week:

My screen time when beginning the challenge:

2.) I had time to do things I didn’t find time to do before

As I was getting used to the daily “stay off your phone” thing, I found myself burning my face in a book. And man! Who knew reading is another form of teleportation? I had already read one and a half books in five days. Can you believe it? Now I know this may not be so surprising for everyone. However, as embarrassing as it is to admit, my cell phone took away that power for so long. And even if I did read on my phone, it would never be as spectacular as turning each page by hand.

I was also amazed by the power of facemasks. Yes, facemasks. Ahh, so relaxing. I knew that by the end of this challenge my skin would be GLOWING! Back to all seriousness, I had found time for minimalistic things like this. Things that made me relax and feel so much better. As a student, things often get very stressful. And cell phones… Well, they aren’t so helpful most of the time. This made me feel so much better especially in a very stressful week.

3.) I could think more freely

Now, before you make a confused face at me, let me explain. We see as fast as 30 and 60 frames per second. Meaning that if we are scrolling through social media, we will find ourselves with so much news happening around us and all around the world. We see people speak out on actions taken by other people whether good or bad. Protests, speeches, bla bla bla. And sometimes other people’s opinions can influence our own.

So, if we were to hear certain news and follow the never-ending process of social media, our actions are most likely to be influenced by something someone else has said. This can be good sometimes. My point is that if we weren’t so worried about what he or she or they said then we would be thinking for ourselves more freely. Social media is a very influential place.

Moving to a different POV, in my experience, I was able to feel and think clearly. Not just about news happening in the moment, but my own likings and thoughts.

According to the survey, the #1 top favorite social media app by RHS students is “TikTok”. Why am I not surprised. Anyway, if you haven’t heard about “TikTok” (which I highly doubt) it is a social media platform where creators are given the opportunity to create unique videos and upload for everyone to see. Users can be verified and even make profit from it by using the Creator Fund per the amount views they get. Although it can be a fun place to find all sorts of informational to comedy videos, at times, it can be a very intoxicating place.

4.) I felt less tired

Cellphones can be very tiring. Maybe not to our bodies but definitely to our eyes and minds. Our eyes and brains are able to move at very fast speeds but that doesn’t mean they can’t use a break. The week that I wasn’t using my phone I noticed that I had more energy to do things and felt overall better.

5.) The real beauty of nature

We can all say that nature is beautiful. It is important for us to really enjoy nature with our eyes. When going to a new place or somewhere we find ‘cool’ the first thing we do is snap a picture of it. So much that we forget to take in that moment and decide to save it on our cell phone gallery. Yes, it is nice to go back and look at the picture to remember the moment, but it is more important to be present and make memories ourselves in our minds and not let our cell phones do that for us.

During this challenge I found myself going out for walks a lot, especially on the beach. This made me realize how much more I appreciated nature and being present in that moment. As I sat there by a tree, I thought of a flower. How beautiful they are and how I just wanted to take it for myself. But if I did that, in a few days or even hours the flower would be dead. But if I would leave it where it was, I would be able to enjoy its beauty along with others.

6.) The attention we give to things

When we are concentrating on our cell phones sometimes we forget what is happening around us or pay very little attention. As I sat on the table to have an early dinner/ late lunch, I noticed my food portions. Why was that so odd to me? Well, I had gotten used to the bad habit of eating while watching my favorite show (The 100 on Netflix) and not really caring how much or how little I was putting on my plate. Eating while watching my favorite show on my phone was the best part of my day. Not this time. I sat there alone and realized that I got full faster than before and that I had so much left over.

This also got me thinking about the other things I hadn’t paid close attention to and should have. Examples include; a family member talking to me, spilling drinks, washing my hands, putting things in their rightful spots, etc.

More people should try this challenge!

More people should try this challenge not only for the fun of it but also because it can give you ideas on how to do things that will benefit you, stop procrastinating and stay away from your cell phone. This challenge helped me to learn how to manage my time and find hobbies that I can do instead of spending so much time on my cell phone. It made me more grateful for all I have and it was an overall good experience. I recommend you to try it.