What I’ve learned from not browsing on my phone for a month

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

I have been meaning to write a follow-up to my digital minimalism challenge post for the past two weeks now but there is always something easier to do, something more fun, at a tap of a screen.

Most can relate to the challenge of distracting apps and platforms that clutter our lives and make it harder to focus our attention on things we value.

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This past July, I vowed to participate in a digital-declutter challenge by committing to remove all browsing app from my phone for 31 days to reclaim my attention.

Personally, I waste the most time online browsing highly addictive time-wasting websites.

Since decluttering and minimizing my phone, the Safari app has been the most entertaining app on my phone for quite a while now. It is also the least useful app on my phone if I’m being entirely honest with myself. I use it mostly for instant gratification and escapism.

In other words, Safari is an optional technology, not a necessity.

Digital declutter is a process by which we eliminate optional technologies for a 30-day time period so that we can explore offline activities and behaviors that we find satisfying and meaningful.

I figured the digital declutter challenge will help me clarify the importance of browsing apps to my day-to-day life, and what else I can turn to quench my boredom if that wasn’t available to me.

It was an eye-opening experience.

Although in the past, I have periodically removed the app from my phone, I have never gone this long without it. A reason or two would always come up that needs a quick Google search, to look up a recipe or to quickly compare wine types at the store. 

To avoid the pitfalls of pure willpower and self-discipline, I asked my friend to put a passcode and block Safari. This also had the effect of accountability because I didn’t want to go back and ask for the passcode, and admit defeat.

I could have also downloaded the Google app but I decided it was too much effort and really wanted to see what would come out of this challenge.

During the challenge, I wrote a blog post that touched on my experience thus far with the digital declutter challenge.

Since removing all browsing apps from my phone, my phone is almost entirely useless for entertainment purposes and the benefits have been apparent.

I find myself constantly doing things, even small things I’d usually put off because I’m immersed in my phone. I read a lot more now. I stay longer with the discomfort of doing things, like writing or going to the gym, because the alternative would be doing nothing, no entertainment to escape into.

This challenge has made two points very apparent.

First, it is important to know what works best for you.

Restrictions and removal are my saviors.

I personally don’t have enough self-control or willpower to constantly peel myself away from all the attention-grabbing websites available on the world wide web.

The best thing I can do is remove or minimize digital distractions. In doing so, I find myself naturally doing more of the things I actually want to do with my time. There is less resistance to doing things that are more productive and useful, although not always the easiest.

Second, most digital devices, platforms, and tools are optional technologies.

I can live without many of the digital platforms and tools without affecting my life in any major way. 

Yes, there were moments where it would have been convenient to have access to Google on my phone, but it didn’t matter enough to impact the moment in any significant way.

Even more so, there are better alternatives to most of the digital clutter. Removing instant gratification provides for more positive experiences, like reading books I really enjoye and writing more on my blog.

The itch was definitely there for instant gratification and easy entertainment, but removing the platform allowed me to sit with it longer, to deal with it, and find out alternatives.

Although Cal Newport advices us to be deliberate when we reintroduce these optional technologies back into our lives after the challenge, my ego got the best of me.

I felt I should reward myself for going over thirty-one days without browsing on my phone by excessively browsing on my phone.

It was not the best choice.

I went right back to my old habits.

I got sucked into browsing, scrolling, and consuming information just to pass the time or deal with emotional discomfort. It was nice to lay on the couch comfortably and Reddit again. It was there, and it felt nice to get lost in mindless browsing and I couldn’t pull myself away.

A couple days ago, I decided to remove Safari from my phone again.

This challenge made me realize removing Safari doesn’t impact my day-to-day life, even long term, but having it there keeps me glued to my phone for hours daily. It is easier to not have it, especially when I don’t even need it.

After years of deliberate consideration, I have found what works for me best: restrictions and removal.

Published by Mehret Biruk

(re)discovering the pleasures of the offline world.

One thought on “What I’ve learned from not browsing on my phone for a month

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