Dear Rebecca,

Help! I’m addicted to my phone! Can you help me detach from my devices?


Plugged-In Paul


Dear Plugged-In,

I’m so glad you asked me about this. Your question is particularly timely, because we all know that next weekend at The Game no one’s phone will get reception in the tailgate area. So let me help you prepare yourself for a phoneless Saturday next week. And, if it goes well, I highly recommend that you make time away from your phone part of your routine.

What would it be like to go without technology one day a week? Well, I can’t exactly answer that for you, but I can share my experiences.

For the past three years, I have spent at least 25 hours a week unplugged — and when I say “unplug,” I mean from everything. Before sundown on Friday, I turn all my lights off and hide my computer, phone and iPad in my desk drawer. I do all this so that I can observe Shabbat, but also because I need a break from obsessively checking my phone. So if you think that keeping Shabbat might make going technology-free easy for you, you might want to go talk to your Rabbi. You’ll get the same results.

So, why should you go technology-free?

It can feel liberating, like how traveling used to feel before every cafe and hotel had free Wi-Fi. Or it can be terrifying, like that one time during Shabbat when I returned home at 3 a.m. and realized that I was locked out of my room with no way to call Yale Security, or that other time (on a Monday) when I lost all my friends and my phone died right before Macklemore went on at Spring Fling.

I can guarantee that any crisis you can think of has happened to me when I had no phone. And I’ve survived. So the question is, how can you? And why should you?

The thing about going technology-free is that you only need to go as far as you’re comfortable. You don’t want to be more stressed out because you don’t have your phone. And in order not to think about that stress, try to be more in the moment. Connect with those who matter to you in person and not just through a screen.

Don’t leave your phone at home and go out with a new group of friends who won’t keep an eye on you in your handicapped state. If you plan on having a particularly fun night out without your phone, I recommend bringing along a slip of paper with contact info for an emergency contact who is not your mom. I’ve only done this a couple times, but that security blanket was a great comfort. (Thanks for that one time, Sarah.)

Prepare for your unplug in advance. Pretend it’s 1998, and make plans with friends ahead of time. Remind them you won’t have a phone, but embrace the fact that one of you will likely be early or late, causing the other to panic and worry that your plans have fallen through. But this is part of the fun. When you both show up because you trust each other to follow through, it is the best thing ever. And since you’re the only one going technology-free, you’ll even get to feel superior when your friends check their phones while you’re together.

But if that feels isolating, remember that you’re not alone. We all know people without Facebook and even some without smartphones. Somehow, they exist, even at Yale, where days are measured by emails, iMessages and Facebook likes sent and received. I would even venture to say that people who are less plugged-in are often happier. They might be a little out of touch, but they are that way by choice, which means that they don’t dwell on what they’re missing.

Even if you’re not yet convinced, I really think you should experiment with time away from your phone. It doesn’t have to be a Saturday, but choose one day of the week that works for you. A friend of mine is planning on starting to observe “Wireless Wednesdays” so that he can take advantage of his class-free afternoon and buckle down in the library. I don’t know if this will last for the whole day; I bet he’ll turn his phone on in time for Woads. And that’s okay. He doesn’t have to align himself with some rabbinic mandate, but for those few hours he’ll experience a freedom similar to the kind that makes Shabbat so meaningful to me.

Oh, and prepare for the excitement of turning your phone back on. Be prepared for some confused friends and, hopefully, many snapchats and texts. But stick with it, even if these texts remind you of all the fun you missed while your phone was off. If you’re lucky, you’ll eventually reach the point I’m at, when you have very few texts once you turn your phone back on because everyone knows. I think this means my friends know I’m better than them because I don’t need technology. But they probably just didn’t want to talk anyway.


Rebecca Unplugged

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