The Mobile Detox Challenge

Earlier in the week, I proposed and started a challenge to the MMM community after a great deal of discussion over the subject and influence of mobile phone usage and addiction. As such, I basically put my money where my mouth is, just to show that I do genuinely believe in the advice I dispense here and even go so far as to practice what I preach. Now, I’m bringing the challenge to all my readers today, the day the iPhone 6 goes on sale. (It seems appropriate.)

What is The Challenge?

The challenge is relatively simple.

All Cellphone Users: If you leave the house, simply leave without your phone. I don’t care where you’re going, just don’t take it with you. If you want to call or text someone, it has to wait until you’re back home. If you’re home and asleep, the phone must not be kept in your bedroom.

Smartphone (and data accessible feature phone) users: While you’re at home, don’t use your phone for any sort of network data access. Just turn off both the mobile data and WiFi. No social media (even if it’s an SMS replacement to reduce texting costs), no web browsing, no streaming entertainment. If you want to load music or e-books onto the device, you have to do it physically through your computer’s USB cable or an SD card.

Do this for a full 30 days. I will be participating (personally started 15 September), even though I use the device for work outside of the house. If I need to check for messages left on my cellphone while out of the house, I will ask to borrow someone else’s phone to check my voicemail remotely, or wait until I get back.

If you own an Android phone or tablet, install RescueTime on your device(s) during the 30 day challenge just to find out how much of your life is spent staring at the tiny little screen, whether it be for work or play.

Why Should Anyone Do This Challenge?

Good question! For the sake of brevity (ha!), let’s boil down a short list as to why you should do this:

  • Mobile technology is addictive, especially (but not exclusively) smartphones.
  • Constant social connectivity is stress inducing.
  • Doing this helps reset a gauge on what your needs are versus wants, which helps you save money.
  • New habits can be learned in only 30 days (actually, it’s somewhere around 66+ days, but let’s aim low for a round number that most people will actually try).

It’s a grand exercise to help you realize exactly how much you actually need a mobile phone in your life. This helps you to better quantify your needs so you can more successfully work out how much money you should be spending on this device. Second… well, let’s start by taking a little closer look at the values and perspective that drives my advice here and the guide itself.

I’ve been given a lot of compliments over the years over the quality of the guide and philosophy behind it, but honestly I just view it as a lost bit of common sense that just seemingly unpacks the more you study it: Don’t let stuff rule your life, because it’s just stuff.

In a way, this permeates all the advice I hand out and the thousands of words put forth in The Guide. More importantly though, a great deal of this philosophy has lead to my paying keen attention on the scientific and psychological front regarding the effects of technology on people’s lives. In a way, I embrace and allow the established addictive nature of these devices to shape and influence my suggestions… to the point where I caution against any excessive usage and tend to defend being a technological minimalist.

I could dive deep down the psychological rabbit hole, talk about the problems with modern society and how these devices are helping to create an unintentional generation of narcissists. There’s clearly a problem, and it’s visible. Just take your eyes off your phone for a couple minutes while you’re outside and look around at all the other people surrounding you. See how people have stopped talking? See how they’re excessively fondling or staring into those tiny little blue rectangles? That may be the new normal, but that’s not healthy. In a world where you are what you practice, this gets ugly fast.

You need to remember something: these are convenience devices, and it’s our love of convenience that’s causing their pronounced creep into our society. The illusion of need (outside of work-related tasks) is mostly self-manufactured. Think about what you use your smartphone for, and how much of it is truly time sensitive or a function that is a necessity for day to day life. Measure those uses against Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and be honest about where they fall in aiding your day to day experiences.

I know some of you are going to cite how great they are about keeping you in contact with family and friends because technology is making it easier. Perhaps, but are you having real conversations, or are you just keeping up with what other people are comfortable posting publicly on social media? There’s a big difference there. One with large enough philosophical stones might even ask, if you (or your friend) can’t find the time in your life to actually sit down and talk one-on-one with one another anymore, is there still a friendship, or is modern technological communication simply acting as the life support for an already dead friendship? People come into and fall out of our lives, and sometimes we reconnect and other times we never see one another again… at least that’s how it used to be. Is this technology actually drawing us closer as a community, or is it actually separating us further and only placing the illusion of love, belonging, and self-esteem within our lives with empty substitutes? Friendship and love takes effort and time, are we substituting that effort with the convenience of technology?

Oops, I dove down the hole a bit, anyway. Still, they’re good questions.

I also know a lot of you are going to claim some sort of amazing level of self-control, that you’re offended being lumped in with the rest of humanity, and somehow you’re the exception to the rule. Get over yourself. We’re all human, and we’re all susceptible to the nature of these devices. If you’re somehow unique, why not take part in the challenge anyway to prove to yourself that you’re actually right? Until then, realize that you sound like every other smartphone user I’ve met with a problem. It’s always everyone else and never yourself. You know what? It’s okay to admit that you’re only human and you make mistakes. Come join the rest of us!

Know that I don’t choose and advocate the minimalism path with technology out of some sort of elitist conceit, I do so because I know I’m weak and flawed, and I’d rather sacrifice the illusion of convenience for a truly better quality of life, even if it means I have to work harder to have it.

The thing is, when it comes right down to it, we’ve manufactured the illusion of need for these devices in our lives… and much of it hinges upon the self. In a huge Universe where only the superstitious believe in the love and fulfillment of understanding one’s place in creation anymore through the belief in any sort of invisible G-d within this enlightened and knowledgeable society, these modern mobile communications devices are helping to artificially fill a very real hole in our lives that is created with the question, “Who am I, and why am I here?”

Dashboard Savior by Mike Licht

Being able to talk and know about things practically anywhere and everywhere you go creates a very real sense of self-importance… but it’s a very limited and hollow sort of fulfillment, and yet it still fills the hole and feels like it’s filling us. We as a society are hungry, and these things are like junk food for the spirit. Cheap and available. It’s probably why it’s becoming the opiate of the 21st century, people prefer this sense of fulfillment more than the actual trials and horrors of working through these philosophical and existential questions on our own while living in the quiet parts of life. It’s an “instant fix” to a question as old as self-awareness within the human creature.

In a way, it’s become a form of idolatry for many people because of this. These devices give them purpose, so they center their lives around the phone so thoroughly to the point of feeling incapable of living without them. These things haven’t even existed in their current forms and capacities for a full human generation… yet look at the devotion and focus these tiny little blue rectangles get from so many of us.

Doing this challenge might be difficult, but it could also be rewarding as it will help you to reclaim some of your time, and perhaps find more meaning and depth out of life and those around you. Take up this challenge so your cellphone stops defining who you are and how you live your life. Own your possessions and don’t let your possessions continue to own you.

Now, who’s with me?

1 thought on “The Mobile Detox Challenge

  1. preach on brother Meshugana! I recognize that your post is almost a year old now (May 2015), but I just read it after setting up a voip account after 7 years without a cellphone. I put it down seven years ago because it felt awkward in my pocket and it wasn’t worth the monthly payment. It feels like a secret to know how to live w/o one. ;) Cheers!

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