Would You Take a Phone Break?

New York Magazine recently ran a story about gadget sickness, or how a phone can drive you nuts.

The other day, Toby and I went on a bike ride to the playground, and I accidentally left my phone at home. While he was playing, I was surprised to see how many times I absentmindedly reached for it before realizing it wasn’t in my pocket. It made me realize how much I check it—for really no reason other than habit. (It was the same phenomenon as when you forget to wear your watch and then realize how many times you look at your blank wrist.)

I’m curious: Would you take a break from your phone? Do you have any phone rules? I once met a guy who turned his phone off all day every Saturday. I love that idea! I might try it this weekend. It would be nice to be more present—or just daydream—during those quiet moments:)


P.S. Speaking of daydreaming: What are three things you’re grateful for?

(New Yorker cartoons by Liam Walsh)

  1. Actually, cell phones become our friends, we can not imagine a day without them.. and we can not leave them for just a second, because of the addiction obviously.

  2. I am so guilty of this!!!! I always always have my phone in my hand. I can never put it down!! I could never take a break from it

  3. I don’t think I obsessively check my phone. That said, if I don’t have it with me I feel naked & I hate being out without it but more because I’m worried about the actual journey (I ride a motorcycle & it panics me to think I wouldn’t be able to call for help if I was in an accident particularly as I work in the country and often don’t pass any vehicles on the way home from work late at night). As long as I know I have it, it can go unchecked for hours on end (as in a whole 6hr shift at work). I don’t play games on it, I use it for messaging.

  4. I was just thinking about this because I saw this video:

    My husband gets on me for checking social media while I’m playing with our baby or watching TV, you know, times when you probably don’t need any more stimulation. So I was thinking about doing a tech-break day where there is no TV or computer either, phones only for phone calls to parents. I’m bad about the phone, he’s bad about the TV so it would be nice for us both to work on those issues and get some real together time.

  5. I’ve been trying really hard to not use my phone at meals, especially when I am out with friends. I just feel rude when I have it out.

  6. So interesting reading all the comments. I have increasingly become more attached to my phone (I’m 31) and I hate it. Just a year ago I didn’t have an iPhone, and 8 years ago I didn’t have a cell phone, and didn’t care. I LOVED not being able to get a hold of all the time. I just called who I wanted when I wanted to reach them:) Selfish, yes, but I was in my twenties. I never became completely dependent on it until I got my iPhone (like another commenter mentioned- the data plan killed me!). Before that, I rarely even looked at, unless it rang. Rats! I am, however, someone who doesn’t answer if I’m in the middle of something- dinner, lunch, chatting with a neighbor, even watching a good tv show. I’m still selfish about when I’ll answer my phone.

  7. I’ve started knitting as a way to keep myself busy and resist the looking at the phone urge. It’s a great distraction, meditative and you can make some beautiful cozy scarfs/hats etc.

  8. I’m a natural observer. It really turns me off to see dates or friends be able to not talk or look around them for long periods of time.

    I started a tumblr awhile back:

    my friends are always pointing shit like this out, LOOK [BLANK] is boring, and they are vocal too, theyll tell other peeps or send me texts all the time (ironic!) <3 ie:

    i think is awesome.

  9. what an insightful post!! love the idea of having a full phone-free day. sounds like a breath of fresh air to me! (and something I will definitely try.)

  10. I am so passionate about this stuff. While I do own an iPhone and am immensely grateful for technology when I am lost, a little lonely, need to pay a bill at the last second, need to find somewhere to put aaallllll the photos I take of my daughter, etc. I am well aware of what it can easily distract us from that’s valuable in life. i.e. – enjoying silence, uninterrupted time with a loved one, the kindness of a stranger who’ll give me directions, the humility of having to ask for directions, the stretching of my trust muscles in said helpful stranger, etc. Thanks for posting Joanna!

  11. such a complicated subject. On the one hand, tuning out to a cell phone (or anything really) is a way that we disconnect from relationships and people and our feelings about life in general. But at the same time, and ironically, it’s a necessary way to keep connected.
    My husband and I have time each night without devices and with my kids we’ve set certain device-free times (ie, neither of us checks our phones at the table or during the time before bedtime, and we have family time every morning for breakfast and on the way to school drop off, so there’s no screen time then either). I kind of feel like if I’m imposing rules on my kids about device time, I need to be a role model myself and can’t be a slave to it.

  12. We have no cell phones . We control and select the technology in our lives and are not enslaved by it. We have an iPad, notebook, kindle, and a couple of other laptops.
    Oh, and a life, a wonderful, wonderful life.

  13. The first time I went to Europe I didn’t have a smartphone, so I left it turned off in my room the whole time. (While a “dumb” phone doesn’t have nearly as many distracting possibilities, I still did check it frequently for texts or missed calls out of habit.) Anyway, for the whole two weeks, I was untethered from a gadget, and it was perfect. I paid so much more attention to my surroundings, absorbing details, sights and sounds. (Maybe this is slightly selfish, but it is freeing to not feel obligated to respond to or check for missed messages.)

  14. I have no problem being away from the phone as long as my son and husband are with me. Often times, I’ll leave the phone to die on a Saturday and wont charge it all day.

    But when they are not with me, I go back to checking it…and facebook, and EVERYTHING all the time. I suppose they are just the reminder to check back to the phone.

  15. I like this idea. Phone break is a great idea. Thanks for sharing this..
    My Website

  16. I’m the only twenty-something person I know that doesn’t even have a phone, it seems.

    I decided not to get one because I’m already addicted enough to the internet. I’d hate to be even more disconnected from Real Life.

  17. I like reading these comments and seeing what people have to say about the topic. Our reliance on our phones is amazing and kinda freaky.

    I teach grade two, and I was talking to my students about making ‘text to self connections’. I asked them what they thought text was, and of course all the students thought I meant text messages. I had to laugh.

  18. I am between jobs right now, and between countries (Guatemala to Costa Rica to the US) as a result, I’ve been phone-less for the last 30 days. I have to say, I missed it at first, but after the first week, I just had to get creative about how to reach people. Also being unreachable my self, really has it’s benefits.

  19. love this idea. unfortunately when you work freelance, turning the phone off really isn’t an option.

    i do insist on putting phones away during mealtime when i am with my boyfriend or friends.

  20. I generally leave my phone entirely alone once I’m home and usually let it die over the weekends I don’t have plans. It does drive some of my friends/family crazy, but after having to be hyper-available all day at my job via phone/email/skype, I LOVE leaving my cell alone. We also have a no checking the phone when we’re out to dinner rule.

  21. I’ve taken to plugging it in across the room at night, so it’s not the first and last thing I see every day. That’s helping a bit with my compulsive checking!

  22. I turn my ringer/vibrate off when I walk out the door to go to work. I only check it for messages during the day if I am expecting a call. I turn the ringer back on when I get home from work–if I remember to do it.

    I have much greater fear of missing out for real life than I do for social media or messaging.

  23. I do this all the time because I’m constantly losing my phone! Obviously if I was more attached to it, I wouldn’t lose it as much. I don’t know why, but I never caught the phone/smart phone bug. I’ll leave it somewhere and not go back to get it for days at a time and people always think I’m crazy when I’m so nonchalant and just say, “Yeah, I left it somewhere. I’ll look for it later/get it back in a few days.”

  24. Interesting idea. My phone is off from 9-3:30 at work every day, which I think is a good break for me. I totally think that daydreaming is losing a battle against phones and that’s a sad thing.

  25. I like the idea, but I don’t think I could do it. I don’t live near any family right now (although I live near friends), but not having my phone is too disconnected for me. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.

  26. I often think about leaving my phone behind when I go on holiday, but I can never quite bring myself to do it!

  27. I am a mom and I work outside the home as well. I have NO CELL PHONE. It is the greatest single gift you give yourself. E-mail, yes- landline, yes…..My time is my own, no one else’s.

  28. I also have questioned my dependence on the tiny computer in my pocket (because let’s face it, can we really call them phones anymore!?)! So my husband and I came up with three rules for our lives to try to develop a well-balanced diet with our smart phones. They are:
    1. No phones in bed.
    2. No “checking” social media outlets once we get home from work
    3. When in a social situation, the phone is used as if there is no INTERNET capabilities (however limited use of the camera is ok).

    I wrote about this on my blog Grown-Up Party and share a very moving/frightening video about our current phone culture!

  29. We have phone free Sundays! And it is harder than you realize. I have to wear a watch, realize that every cute moment does not need to be catalogued on Instagram, and truly acknowledge my addiction to candy crush. But my kids and my posture surely benefit!

  30. My husband and I took a phone/computer/tv break when we went on our honeymoon. It was so freeing and fabulous! It was also a culture shock when our trip was over and we got bombarded with media again… The last day of our trip was the day the tsunami hit Japan, and we were so overwhelmed by how out of the loop we’d been before getting to the airport that day where we saw the news on tv. So, I’d say there are definitely pros and cons to taking a break – it can really help you relax, but you can end up totally out of the loop as well.

  31. I’ve thought about this a lot lately. I sometimes forget my phone at home or the battery dies while I’m at work. I end up taking the bus home and spending a lot more time in my own thoughts.

    When I’m at home I also end up forgetting my phone in another room. It’s great to just disconnect and be present (or lost in your own thoughts, at least).

  32. My husband has two cell phones. One is for job contacts, appointments, reservations and friends. Second one is for close family and VIP friends which is less then 5 :) So he turns the first one off after 22:00 and at weekends.

  33. I actually don’t have a smart phone because I want to be in the moment. Of course I have a phone, but it only makes calls and texts. It drives me nuts that people are so rarely paying attention to what they’re doing anymore. People come over to your house and spend the whole time staring at their phone, it’s madness!

  34. I would love to do this. The distance from my parents, siblings and boyfriend is my current excuse, but I like the idea of turning it off one day a week a lot.

  35. My only rule is that I never talk on the phone when I am with someone.
    Nothing is that important and it is effing rude.
    Of course, I am probably the only person on the planet that feels this way :)

  36. I worked two summers in Europe (Prague and just outside of Parma, Italy) teaching English and went without a phone due to do the cost of having my phone service on in another country. In some ways it was very nice not to be so connected, but that was when I noticed my fellow English Teachers and I used Facebook to communicate a lot. I never used to check FB and all the sudden I was checking multiple times a day. Sometimes to plan with teachers (our host families were in different towns) and sometimes just to see what family at home was up to or even what sites other teachers were seeing. So strange, really!

  37. This is a lovely idea. :) I take a phone break all the time…but it helps when your phone doesn’t do anything but make calls and text. :)

  38. The only time I really check my phone a lot is if I’m by myself. I actually work with my husband & most of my friends that would likely phone/text me, so I don’t feel compelled to check it much during the day.

    I do like having it on me though, just in case I need to check my email or kill some time :)

  39. I left my phone at home once, and I acted like I was missing a limb. The only place I am not using my phone actively is when I go to the movies or to see a play/ballet. I also try not to use it when I am having dinner with my parents, since my dad is actively distracted checking his work emails or other stupid things, leaving my mom feeling left out.

  40. i try to give myself a 9pm deadline every night. no phone after that. i often fail, but i love it when i don’t. so freeing.

  41. we have rule in our home, once dad gets home, no phone, comp or t.v. until 8pm when the kids are put to bed- this allows us to focus on being a family without the distraction of the outside world. i also made a little caddy so that my phone is no longer charging by my bedside, so its now not the first or last thing i look at in the day. i

  42. I do this as much as possible on the weekends. There have been days where my phone has sat on the charger for most of the day – I figure if there is an emergency we have one phone in reach (my husband’s) if necessary. I also keep my phone on silent.

    My big issue is responding to texts right away, which is soemthing I don’t necessarily have to do.

  43. Oh my goodness. I really need one of these, and so does my fiance. He needs it more than me I think ;) I try to not look at my phone more than one time once I’m home from work (unless something for work comes up). But I try to stay away fro Fbook, twitter, and instagram once I’m done with my train ride home from work.

  44. I love the idea of taking a day off! I just might do it this weekend!

  45. Gagdet sickness is terrible…I always take phone breaks, it interferes with my work.

  46. I’ve got very specific hours set up with my staff about when they may not contact me. I recently made them much stricter too. No calls after 10pm or before 5:30am on weekdays and they can only reach me on weekends between 9-11am and 2-5pm. I do leave the phone on though and I check my email a few times a day on weekends but it is mostly when I’m sitting in the car waiting for ballet lessons to end or in line for the bathroom at the movie. If my family goes on vacation we don’t bring cell phones and the only person who gets the itinerary is my brother in law. We 100% unplug on vacation.

  47. ss says...

    I just had a talk with my mom about availability and being a working mom in today’s age. She asked that when she text me that I text back the answer sooner than I typically do. Which can be days, but still, I told her that when she had small children her mother did not have the option to text her questions throughout the day and expect a response. I miss the old answering machine. Remember how fun it was to listen to at the end of the day!? Now I cringe when I see ANOTHER voicemail. #firstworldproblems

  48. After letting my phone’s batteries die, and forgetting about my phone for a time, I decided to get rid of it completely. I have a home phone and a work phone. I have a computer at work and home to check e-mail. The times that I am out, I just don’t want to be reached.

    As far as having “rules,” observant Jews have always taken a break from technology on Saturdays. Here is an idea that is approachable even from a non-Jewish perspective:

  49. On another topic, can’t wait to see your apartment makeover!

  50. I check my phone/ipad way more often than I should and love the idea of taking a break from my gadgets. Being pretty heavily pregnant at the moment I don’t think I would feel comfortable leaving the house without a phone, but reading this post and comments, I’m inspired to try putting it in another room at night now. I sit in front of a computer all day at work and I think it would do me some good to disconnect a bit!

  51. When my phone died and I had to wait a few days to get a new one, I definitely realized how often I check it. That said, it would make me nervous to take a phone break–what if there was an emergency and someone needed to contact you?

    Check out my blog, if you’d like:

  52. that’s such a fantastic idea! i really love when i accidentally leave my phone at home, but never have the strength to do it on purpose! :)

    i think i’m going to try it with you on saturday!!


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  55. I plug my phone into the charger in the bedroom when I get home at night.. I check it a lot sitting at my desk during the day.. but at night it stays in the other room. I might check it once or twice on my way to the bathroom.. but generally leave it alone and am good with that. Then again, I don’t have kids or a husband somewhere else that I might be worried about missing a call from.

  56. Oh yes. I take a technology break every summer during our family vacation, and I stay as far away from the computer on weekends.

  57. I guess that I’m glad that I’m over 40 and lived a big chunk of my adult life without a cellphone. I have one now, but it is off when I pull in the garage at night and only on during the weekend if I am traveling somewhere. I have a landline and if there are any emergencies, somebody will call that. I HATE feeling like I am expected to be avaiable at all hours. I’m curious to know what all of you think you are missing? What are these important emails and Facebook post that you MUST see the moment they appear? It just seems silly and a little sad to me when I see someone walking along, really anywhere, staring at a phone. And don’t even get me started on the idiots that endanger everyone around them with using the phone to talk or text while driving. YOU AREN’T THAT IMPORTANT!!!

  58. I think I need to check my phone less while at home. During the workday I’m in front of a computer constantly. I try to disconnect at night and on days off. I love the feeling of realizing that it’s been a long time since I checked my phone. That happens most often when I’m with my son. Checking my phone during his naptime feels nicely indulgent!

  59. I have a little rule for myself that I don’t check my phone when I’m waiting for things. When I’m waiting in line, waiting for the elevator, waiting for the subway to come….everyone does it, and I try hard to just wait, without automatically looking at my phone. It’s hard!

  60. I’ve started to take phone shabbat every week. I will pick it up if anyone calls me (like parents) or if we have friends in town and they are texting me about meeting up. But other than that, the phone stays untouched. No email, no social media, nothing. The first time I did it, I was almost twitchy – it felt like I was missing an arm. But by the end of that 24 cycle, I felt amazing. My mind was clearer, I was calmer, more collected. It was really wonderful and I cannot recommend it enough.

  61. A few years back, I absolutely refused to get a cell phone. My co-workers and friends thought I was crazy, but I didn’t care. I hated the thought of always being on call and expected to be available for EVERYONE, whether it was important or not. If someone needed to get a hold of me, they either called my husband, or they called my work phone (both of which rarely happened).

    Now that I look back, I see that I probably missed out on quite a bit, but man was it nice to have some peace and quite.

  62. I really hate phones (always interrupting!) and I only have one to give my parents peace of mind.

    Once I was with a ill friend in the ER and there was no signal there. We stay there around two hours and as soon as we step the sidewalk, the darn thing started to ring like it was the end of the world. My parents had called me THIRTY ONE times and sent SEVENTEEN texts. The last two said “if you don’t call us back, we are calling the police” and “you better be at home, we’re driving there right now”. They live two hours away.

    Wait. Now that I think about it, the stupid phone gives ME peace of mind :P

  63. I, like most people these days, am borderline addicted to checking my phone constantly. Even though I know I’m doing it too much, I have a really hard time changing my ways.

    But, whenever I’m on an airplane I leave it off (no airplane mode, no wi-fi on applicable flights) and lately I’ve kept it on silent without vibrate! This may seem small, but gone are the constant email alerts or group text message dings. Also, sometimes I will purposely leave it at home while running errands – opting for hand written to-do lists :)

    Small changes lead to big results!

  64. My phone is super old school…it doesn’t even have access to the internet. I put it on vibrate as soon as I get home from work and usually don’t check it till the morning. I sit on a computer all day at work and just want to hang out with my husband and son at night. The last thing I want to look at is more “technology”. That’s how much my phone means to me.

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  66. I’ve come to notice how addicted I am to my phone. I should start setting restrictions on myself- it’s come to that point unfortunately!

  67. I love that time to space out and day dream and let your mind wander.

  68. I suggest getting rid of your data plan — you’ll have no interest in your phone. It’s amazing how much more efficient and engaged you are when you’re not checking your email or Twitter every 5 seconds. (Saves a huge bill every month, too.)

  69. Are you ready for this?! I do not have a cell phone! (By choice, of course.) It’s been an amazing experience to observe everyone become so fixated with their devices, and to see how little they realize their addiction. The only time I feel inconvenienced is when on road trips – good luck finding pay phones these days. If you ask someone if there is a phone you can use they look at you completely dumbfounded!

  70. I used to be like that too, always reaching out for the phone as a habit. Then I lost it this summer and decided not to replace it. Surprisingly, the transition has been very easy. I now appreciate not being reachable all the time and not always connected to email & social media. Definitely try it!

  71. We went on vacation earlier this month and shut it off the whole week. With no internet to distract me I was able to read two books!

  72. I don’t have a cell phone and no plans to get one.

  73. Being a temporary expat in France means I have a not-smart phone and thus limited cell abilities. I automatically check it less! It’s very freeing.

    Trouble is, as soon as I return to the States (e.g. holidays), I’m extra-excited about being able to text everyone, check mail, tweet, etc. whenever and wherever. I go from one extreme to the other :)

  74. i’ve moved to the other side of the world recently and am way less attached to my phone than previously as i have way less friends and family that are actually awake at the same time as me.
    three things i’m grateful for – joe moose and ruby (my husband and my two dogs).

  75. I like that idea! One time I was leaving a place with my kids, thought I lost my phone but couldn’t turn back and figured I’d come back for it later. As I pulled away out of the parking lot, sweet relief passed over me and I was actually excited I didn’t have a phone to be bound to anymore! 5 minutes later I found it in a different pocket and proceeded to check it throughout the day, just out of habit. It drives me crazy.

  76. I make a conscious effort when I spend some time in one room (eating breakfast, talking with family, etc.), to leave my phone in a different room, if only for 30 minutes or so, but usually more. I also set a rule for myself some days that I won’t check any social media until a certain time in the morning, or until I’ve completed certain tasks. The feeling of not having it attached to your side, not knowing exactly what’s floating around out there in the internet world, is so freeing.

  77. I do this on the regular– I love to leave my phone at home while I’m grocery shopping or running to visit the neighbors

  78. When I was working on my undergraduate degree, an English teacher challenged us to cut out all “white noise” for 24 hours. Talk about a revealing experience! Of course, we had to write an essay to get the extra credit. In case anyone wants to know how a phoneless day might go, here is a link to the article I wrote:

  79. Ha, i love this. I was never one of those “I need my phone at all times!” girls….UNTIL smart phones. now i feel so, so lost and helpless without it! I love the idea of social media-free weekends. It alarms me how addicted i am to facebook.

  80. I do occasional phone fasts, usually on Sundays. It’s much like traveling internationally with a phone that doesn’t work. At first you’re so anxious! But then you settle into it and realize you’re actually not missing anything at all. I highly recommend it. I usually do it from sun up to sun down.

  81. We have a “phone bowl” at our home. When you get home from work you put your phone in the bowl. That way you only check it if rings or you have a new text message. No more looking at it just to see if you have a new email, check Instagram, etc. This way you are still connected if there is an emergency but you aren’t spending your downtime looking at a phone!

  82. An all-day phone break is not realistic for me (two very young children, two rather old parents, sister about to give birth, etc.) but certainly having rules about phone usage is a great idea. I think I would start with no checking phones during meals. And not taking any calls or writing emails/texts when with someone else in person.

  83. We occasionally have “Technology Fasts” no phone, internet, tv, music etc. We leave one cell phone on… but only answer it if it is a parent (several of which are old and live alone). But we usually try to tell them ahead of time. We have done it in the evening after work or for an entire weekend. We dont have any kids so there’s no complaints. Its been good for our marriage.

  84. I always put my phone on silent. Before I had my son, I wouldn’t even bring my phone on vacation with me. Having too much fun to even look. It is a habit when I’m home though. I try to do social media free weekends too so more time with family, less distractions, less screen inspired by Lara Casey but it’s a challenge!

  85. I love this idea! The only problem is, it’s the main way my teens and collage age kids communicate.
    So I don’t think I could leave it at home nor turn it all the way off. I will, however, work at not peeking at it every 5 minutes!

  86. Great idea! When my boyfriend and I go on vacation, no matter if that destination has cell service or not, we turn our phones off. It takes us a day to get used to not having them but in the end it is SUCH a break. We read more, talk more, relax more. It’s pretty incredible.

  87. The thing that really surprises me is my expectation of being able to get a hold of someone instantly. One one hand I know people may have meetings/dinners/bad service, but I can’t shut off the part of my brain that knows they have their phone. Such a silly expectation, but I see others struggle with it as well.

  88. i actually leave my phone at home from time to time during weekends. and even if i have it with me, i don’t check it that often. during the holidays i leave it at home during the day and only check it at night. when i’m sleeping it’s always off. i am not that attached to it, and i like it!

  89. jm says...

    I really like the idea of “no technology” times. I would love to hear how your day goes without your phone. Just spending time with the people you are with and not being tempted to take a picture sounds like bliss.

  90. I think a phone break is a great idea! It will give you a chance to unwind without technology and to focus on spending true quality time with the ones you love. I think we are all a little too attached to our phones, laptops, tablets, etc. We should disconnect from the virtual world every now and again to enjoy the real world. :)

  91. I was without a phone for 4 months last year, by choice and over the summer. Part of the time I was on vacation too. It was really so pleasant! A little more difficult to make plans, but I spent a lot more time connecting face to face with people, and it was nice to shift my focus!

  92. So true, it’s almost become a habit to check my phone every few minutes. If not checking your email or FBooking we now have games like Candy Crush to keep us glued. I actually like the idea of being disconnected and not having a phone signal when traveling in the NYC subway. I don’t switch off my phone but always keep it on silent.

  93. I definitely would & may try that this Saturday.

    Although, I always feel like I’m going to miss something. An emergency, a birth, an engagement.

    Manda from Eat Cake

  94. P.s. I’m grateful to be in school working with patients, finally. Now, I hope to pass.

  95. I always want to do this at weddings but never follow through. Rather than the bride only seeing phones as she walks down the aisle it would be so nice to see faces, but I succumb to the desire of capturing a moment for keeps too! I like the Saturday plan,,,, may give it a whirl this weekend! xx

  96. Lately I just always keep my ringer on silent and check it every hour or two… Or four.

  97. I love that idea, my husband is in school and I have made a point when he is studying I have to do something productive that does not involve my ipad or computer and it feels so good when he is learning I am also using my brain for something good.