Opinion: My experience, benefits of decreased phone use

It feels impossible to introduce my reduced phone use challenge without a trite declaration: I am deeply attached to my phone and the world it connects me to. I have been enthralled by the boundless scope of entertainment the internet offers, like most of Gen Z — a demographic that clocked an average nine hours a day in front of screens throughout 2020. 

Driven by academic desires to score well on midterms and finish my college applications, I swore off my most-used app for the month of October: YouTube. As September came to a close and my self-inflicted probation neared, I wavered back and forth between allowing myself to use YouTube for yoga videos or audiobooks before deciding to go cold turkey. While I missed the entertainment during occasional moments of boredom, I found the cleanse more than beneficial in the following ways: 

  • I became more exploratory.

On the weekend, I was startled to find that my waking thought was one I hadn’t had in a while: what should I do today? That first Saturday, I had the thrill of an empty calendar and no mindless watching to fall back on. I found myself roaming my backyard and sitting in the grass to pass the time. I also ended up browsing up and down the isles of my local library for seasonally-appropriate books. I felt more curious in these mellow days during which I returned to childhood pastimes. 

  • I engaged in media more intentionally. 

Prior to this challenge, I would often find myself clicking on any random commentary video or vlog on YouTube I took noncommittal interest in. In a sense, life felt slower and more relaxed without a feed barraging me. With only the web to turn to, any content I wanted I had to more actively seek out. I started intentionally engaging in media I was genuinely interested in. I frequented culinary websites, lifestyle magazines and wellness podcasts I discovered or rediscovered.

  • I focused more on myself

No longer constantly hearing others’ advice or perspectives, I found myself thinking about myself more often. Instead of watching other people, I seriously considered what I wanted to do. I started thinking more about my own goals and dreams, aside from looking at random people’s lives as if looking through a window at a shop.

As the month came to a close, I was grateful for the experience. Everyone should give a challenge like this a try at least once: my experience was surprisingly both relaxing and exciting as I rediscovered ways to spend my free time. Still, I couldn’t go on living without my vlogs and cooking tutorials, and I certainly couldn’t go without my yoga videos and audiobooks. I redownloaded YouTube at the month’s completion, this time setting screen time limits for the interval before my next month-long detox.