5 Things I Learned By Turning Off My Smartphone For 24 Hours

The average person checks his or her smartphone approximately 150 times in 16 hours. A one-day digital detox made one man realize just how important it is to unplug.
September 17, 2013

One day last month, I chose to do the unthinkable: I decided not to use any electronic devices for 24 hours. I picked a Friday as the day to “cut the cord” and put my smartphone, tablet device and laptop in my desk drawer. These are the lessons I learned that day when I focused on living in the moment and appreciating my surroundings:

1. We are addicted to our smartphones. Our phones, more so than our tablet devices and notebook computers, are the culprits behind our insatiable need to keep abreast of everything that's happening around the world. According to a study done by Tomi Ahonen, a mobile technology expert, the average person will check his or her smartphone approximately 150 times in a working day of 16 hours, or once every 6.5 minutes. In addition, the average person will make, receive or avoid 22 phone calls and send 23 text messages in a given day.

Things have gotten so bad that we now check or use our phones at dinner, in the bathroom, while driving, at the movies and in bed. For the majority of smartphone users, our phone is the last thing we check at night and the first thing we reach for in the morning. Many of us have chargers that double as a carrying case while others carry their chargers with them in the event their phones die from overuse. Yep, we are addicted to our smartphones!

2. Smartphones are a necessary and integral part of our daily lives. During my one-day experiment, I learned that my smartphone plays an important role in keeping me connected wherever I am in the world. I use it as an alarm clock, I text family and friends with important messages (e.g., “Can you pick up the kids?” “I’m running five minutes late”), I conduct business on my phone, use it as a GPS, listen to music while working out and I take pictures to capture everyday moments. Smartphones, in many ways, have made our lives more efficient and manageable.

3. Smartphones are also the ultimate time suck in our daily lives. We play games, constantly check for social media updates and send mindless text messages that could easily wait until we see the people we’re texting in person. During my experiment, I admittedly wondered what messages I was missing, who called me and what people were doing that day. When I checked my phone the next day, I realized that almost everything I missed on Friday could have waited until Saturday. There were several missed calls and text messages that were time sensitive, but the Earth didn’t spin off its axis because I responded to them 24 hours later.

4. The future will make our professional and personal lives even more interconnected. As a society, we are moving toward a time and place where there will be no boundaries left between our business and personal lives. The thought of going to work from 9 to 5 is going the way of two weeks of vacation every year and receiving a gold watch upon retirement from the company you worked at for 30 years. This melding of our lives is actually taking place today. Unless we reinforce the eroding boundaries now, social acceptance of being accessible 24 hours/day will become reality. This notion leads me to the last thing I learned from my experiment.

5. It’s important to periodically cut the cord. At one point during my “living in the moment” day, I played basketball with my son. As I stood on the court, hands on my hips trying to breathe, I realized two things: First, I’m not 21 anymore and I can’t keep up with my son playing basketball for two to three hours and, second, I could physically feel the relief from being untethered to my smartphone. It almost felt like freedom. I wasn’t beholden to the people texting me, calling me or updating their social media platforms. I could hear my surroundings instead of the monotonous sound of my marimba ringtone. As with exercise, eating healthy and getting enough sleep, I reminded myself of how good it felt to live in the moment.

I should try this experiment more often.

For 20+ years, Brian has helped America's entrepreneurs realize their dreams. Prior to his current ventures, Brian was the Executive Director at the Wall Street Journal, overseeing the financial & small business markets across the WSJ franchise. From 2002-2010, Brian ran Veracle Media & Moran Media Group. Prior to launching his own companies, Brian was the Associate Publisher at Inc. Magazine and a Publisher/Associate Publisher at Entrepreneur Media. Brian is a graduate of Marquette University’s School of Journalism.

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