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How Going Without a Phone Failed and Transformed Me

In the latest update on Rhik’s journey to overcome his phone addiction, a significant breakthrough occurs.

One day, I muster the courage to ask Almond, “Would you like to be my girlfriend?”

Almond, engrossed in examining bags of Thai basil as if they were vintage vinyl records, replies with patience, “I already am. That’s what this is,” while giving my hand a reassuring squeeze. Realizing her perspective, I respond, “Oh, right. Okay. Yes, good.”

Two months after my previous diary entry, a peculiar transformation has taken place. Despite initially dismissing the experiment as futile, it appears to be yielding unexpected results. I now spend only 90 minutes per day on my phone, with a mere five minutes dedicated to Instagram. The grip of addiction has loosened its hold on me. This shift in my online habits is partly attributed to no longer feeling the incessant need to seek a romantic partner. However, there seems to be more to the story.

The advice provided by various experts I consulted with shared a common theme. Surprisingly, the most impactful conversation regarding technology took place in a cafe devoid of Wi-Fi, with a Buddhist named Sthiramanas. Sthiramanas, a meditation instructor from the London Buddhist Centre, leads a program called “Upgrade Your Mind,” focusing on mindful screen usage.

According to Sthiramanas, “It’s a fundamental human weakness to seek satisfaction externally.” This tendency extends beyond mindless scrolling on screens. Escaping to a silent retreat or a digital detox retreat in the woods is essentially an evasion from the realities of everyday life. The insights gained from such experiences often fail to translate into sustainable changes upon returning to our regular routines. Sthiramanas emphasizes the importance of experiencing life as it unfolds and effecting changes from within to foster happiness and creativity.

Continuing his reflection, he poses a thought-provoking question, “What deeper desires underlie the impulse to check your phone?” For individuals addicted to dating apps, is it a quest for validation? Are news enthusiasts driven by a need for control or a connection to something greater? And for those constantly messaging friends, is it a yearning for affection?

The stark introspection triggered by this conversation leads me to view friendship as primarily an offline endeavor—a physical engagement that transcends virtual interactions. My circle of friends actively engages in activities like day trips to the seaside, dancing, and communal cooking, fostering genuine connections through shared experiences. The joy of laughter in each other’s presence is far more enriching than virtual interactions. While I still exchange texts with friends throughout the day, I have come to appreciate the moments of absence and the anticipation of reconnecting. Perhaps I have embraced an unconventional approach.

The incessant need for constant connectivity has become a draining expectation. My greatest apprehension about switching off my phone revolved around missing urgent calls, particularly from my mother in case of an emergency. Delving deeper, I realize that beneath this reluctance lies a fear of relinquishing control—a realization that prompts me to consider alternative solutions. Sthiramanas suggests acquiring a landline solely for emergencies and sharing the number with close family members, offering a practical resolution to my concerns.

Another gradual yet significant change has been the increase in time devoted to reading. This shift has played a pivotal role in reducing my excessive consumption of social media. Presently, when I access social platforms, they appear trivial and unappealing. This shift in perspective leads me to contemplate whether concentration is akin to a muscle that grows stronger with exercise. While acknowledging that many individuals derive enjoyment from social media, I find myself viewing such content as superficial and lacking depth.

Following a newsletter promotion, I confront a pivotal question: Can I derive satisfaction from my mundane, everyday life without seeking refuge in escapism? This internal inquiry motivates me to declutter my living space more frequently, as I now perceive it with fresh eyes. Maintaining my daily goal of 10,000 steps remains a priority, albeit with a more balanced approach. The physical effects of these lifestyle changes are palpable, and I have begun leaving my phone behind intentionally, relishing the mental clarity and presence in the moment. This newfound practice has significantly enhanced my overall well-being.

From a professional standpoint, I observe a notable increase in my freelance income and productivity. Rather than demonizing tech companies, I have adopted a more pragmatic view, recognizing my phone as a tool—a reflection of my inner state rather than a source of inspiration, detachment, or conflict. It serves as a mirror reflecting my discontent, prompting me to delve deeper into the root causes of my distractions and impulses.

As I navigate this unexpected journey, I am confronted with a new challenge—I find myself ensnared by a newfound addiction to sugar.