Law in the Internet Society

60 Days Without a Smart Phone


60 days ago I replaced my iPhone with a phone which is likely to make you feel oddly nostalgic -- the Sidekick Slide. This essay is a collection of my daily observations and insights of life without a smart phone.


I have wanted to break away from my smart phone for some time now. There are two primary reasons: the first is that I would like to regain my freedom of thought; the second is that I want to be more present and live in the moment.

Regaining freedom of thought. True freedom of thought is the ability to read and think about whatever the hell you want to read and think about. In the Internet Society, the smart phone surveils you constantly in an effort to influence what you read and think about. Often it succeeds in hijacking my thought patterns, and I do not appreciate it. I would much rather spend my time on the Net reading and thinking what I want to read and think about, not what the phone wants. I want to always be the principal agent behind my thoughts, never the passive follower of them.

On being present and living in the moment. Lately I have been practicing being present, and it has greatly enhanced my experience of life and pursuit of happiness. When you focus intensely on the now, it simply becomes more difficult to worry about the future. The smart phone is a great impediment to being present, because it vibrates and chimes incessantly.


Reclaiming my attention. Dumb phones are great because when you look at them, they can only capture so much of your attention. Only now looking back at my smart-phone-behaviors do I realize how much it had claimed my attention. I took my phone with me everywhere, and it always had something mediocre to say.


Memory. I have a much better memory than I realized. I relied on my phone to store a lot of information I can store myself. Take driving routes as an example. On the weekends I coordinate group runs at various parks in the Bronx and Manhattan. I drive from park to park to facilitate these runs, and whereas I once relied on the GPS for driving routes, I now have various routes memorized. It was actually fairly easy to learn them, and doing so has made me a safer driver. My eyes spend less time on a phone screen riddled with distractions and more time on the road.


People appreciate when you are present. It has become socially acceptable to look away at your phone during conversation. I think we might complain about this more if so many people were not so stuck in a constant check-my-phone-feedback-loop. One person checks their phone, which gives the other person the license to do the same, so they do. Repeat. This order of events plays out constantly throughout the day and interrupts moments of just being. It does not change the fact, however, that people immediately notice when you become disengaged with them. People also notice, and tend to appreciate, when you are, instead, present; when they have your attention. They sense that their words matter more to someone who makes eye contact and actually listens. You can see it in their body language and through the content of their speech.


Improved exercise habits. My exercise habits have improved greatly. To be clear, this is not solely a result of me getting rid of my phone; there are conflating factors. My exercise habits have been on a path toward improvement for a while now. In the past six months I have developed a consistent practice of exercise and shed over twenty pounds. That said, I do think that losing a lot of the habits associated with my phone has freed up time. And since I have had more time, I have decided to build new and healthier habits. i.e. exercising more frequently. I now exercise two times a day, six to seven days a week, as opposed one to two times a day, three days a week. I usually do a variety of strength training exercises in the morning and 5-7 mile run in the afternoon or evening.


Progress. I prefer life without a smart phone, and I plan to continue it. I cannot say it does not come without downsides. I sometimes drive the longer route home, I no longer have the ability to answer any trivia question immediately, and at times it can be difficult for people to reach me. But the benefits here outweigh the shortcomings. I no longer feel like a passive observer of my computing behaviors; I am now the conscious agent of them. This has everything to do with the fact that I no longer carry around an object designed to predict and dictate my behavior. I also changed a variety of other computing habits in support of this goal, e.g. I use Duck Duck Go as a search engine, I deleted all my social media profiles, I use a browser that lets me VPN encrypt my local web traffic, and I stopped watching Netflix. Using the Net now feels a lot less like plugging into a dopamine driven feed, and much more like using a tool designed to enhance my conscious thoughts. I also spend more time in the now. It is not always easy to be present. Indeed we need respite from it; we must sometimes be absent, because to be present is to be aware that you exist, and to be aware that you exist is to suffer. Smart phones are like existential crutches. They enable your fear of living in the moment; they delay coping with a hard truth about life – you cannot escape suffering.

-- By JoseMiranda - 04 Jan 2018

I think the point of the essay is achieved in this draft. Documenting what happened isn't really possible in 1,000 words, but the immediacy of the writing is what mattered to the task, and I don't think revising improves that. A different piece, which you don't need to write here and now, deals with the professional consequences of the decision. That too becomes a fascinating subject, as people with whom you work assume that the habits of distraction, rapid shallow research, and constant connection without time for contemplation are the way that work is done.


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r3 - 01 Apr 2018 - 13:52:07 - EbenMoglen
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