I Turned My Phone Off for a Week in NYC. This Is What Happened.

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a New Yorker more than being without their smartphone. You probably just felt an icy chill trickle down your spine at the mere suggestion. Rest assured, you are not alone. Pew Research Center says 64% of Americans own a smartphone, which is up from 35% in 2011. It’s no doubt that smartphones have made our lives easier. Not only is it a social device, but it pretty much enables you to do whatever the fuck you want. Banking, watching TV, ordering takeout, planning travel, learning a new language... Seriously. Anything. But at what cost?

Earlier this year, Iowa State University conducted a study to measure “nomophobia.” Huh? That’s "No Mobile Phone Phobia." Yes, we love our smartphones so much that we are actually AFRAID to be without them. This seems wildly out of control, so I decided to put myself to the test. You know, like those times you go a month without alcohol just to make sure you are not actually, in fact, an alcoholic. So I did the dreaded deed. I powered down my iPhone for an entire week to see if my world would crumble around me or if I would be roaming the back alleys, crawling out of my skin looking for just a hit of Wi-Fi signal. Spoiler alert: neither of those things happened. Shockingly, the world continued to turn. And I became a slightly better person for it. Here are the biggest takeaways from my week with the three-dimensional world.

Flickr/David Lytle

You realize no email is THAT important

Let’s be real here. What do you do in a day? Most likely, more than half of you get up, go to work, bang out a few hours of productivity, have lunch, and then spend the rest of the afternoon clicking back and forth between actual work and YouTube/your favorite GIF Tumblr. There is little to no reason why you need your work email on your phone. Because neither you, or anything in an e-mail, is actually that important. Seriously. (In all fairness, some of you might actually be that important, if say, your livelihood depends on things like commissions or if your job involves saving lives, so please excuse the interruption. But the rest of you have no excuse.) We all know the stomach-plummeting feeling of seeing your boss’ name in your inbox after hours on a weekday or on a weekend, which is followed by the overwhelming (and highly unnecessary) need to respond. Please, eliminate this giant waste of your time. No one is going to die if you wait until Monday, and you’re going to be a much happier person. I promise.

Flcikr/Robert Snache


No, but really. How many times have you woken up to check your email (see above!), check a text, stalk your crush on Whatsapp to see when they were “last seen”/are they awake right now?!?!?!, peruse Facebook, etc. And once you’re up, how long is it before you go back to sleep? I’m guessing a long time. But without even realizing it, once the temptation to check my phone was removed, I slept through the entire night, which hasn’t happened... ever.  

It seems I’m not alone. Michigan State University did a study in 2014 monitoring people’s smartphone use after 9pm and found that they were more tired and less engaged the following day if they had used their phones. “Smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep,” Russell Johnson, an assistant professor of management at MSU, said in the study finding. “Because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep.”


You actually have to commit to something

New Yorkers fear commitment more than the impending polar vortex and having to go to Times Square for literally any reason. But remember those days when you actually made plans and stuck to them? Was that really so bad? Remember how much better of a person you were when you didn’t text people at the last minute to cancel on them because “something came up”? Without your smartphone, you pretty much have to show up to places and keep the plans you made, or else you’re standing someone up and therefore a horrible person. And, what’s even better, people have to (or should) do the same for you.

Flickr/Brad Smith

You actually have to talk to people

No more “Googling” that. Now you’re forced to ask someone for directions, debate a point without it being settled IMMEDIATELY, actually have a conversation, and get through an entire meal without checking Facebook. You’ll need to be present in the moment without distractions of who is texting you now or who is liking your #foodporn shot on Instagram. You will actually eat your meal. You will look at the person who is talking to you.


You might actually have a successful relationship

Seriously, this happens??


Your workouts are going to suck 

Seriously this one is actually terrible if you use your smartphone for your music. Hopefully you still have a Discman. Piped-in gym house music is just plain awful.

Flickr/Gesa Henselmans

You have to be VERY specific with plans

Because sometimes you’re waiting at the bus stop in Kingston, NY for 45 minutes because you’re at one end of the bus stop and your dad is at the other and you literally have no way to communicate and both thinks the other is extraordinarily late. But seriously, this is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you. Phones are actually good for something. But for the rest of it? You can do without. So pick up your head and join the rest of society. It’s nice out here. You’re going to be fine.

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Meagan Drillinger is a freelancer for Thrillist and she wrote/researched this entire article on her iPhone. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @drillinjourneys. Or don’t. Because life will still go on.