I left my phone at home on my birthday – here’s what I learned

On my 24th birthday, I decided to go to Disneyland. There was one catch though — my friend was coming to pick me up early in the morning, and I’m not exactly a morning person. I set my alarm for 5:20a.m., which would give me just enough time to make a small breakfast and put on my makeup. Well, as life goes, my alarm did not go off, and I woke up when she texted me at 5:57a.m. announcing she was on her way to get me.

I, of course, scrambled — put my hair up, quickly put my face on, and grabbed a protein bar and a banana. Before I knew it, my friend was outside. In all the craziness, I set my phone down on my bed and forgot to grab it. I only realized I didn’t have it when we were already well on our way. At that point, it wouldn’t have made sense to go back, and I felt like I was missing a limb.

For the first few hours, it was almost as if I was going through withdrawals. Even at the “happiest place on Earth,” I didn’t know what to do with myself. A part of this had to do with the fact that I was used to being in a job where you are basically on call all the time. But this was my day off, so what was I so worried about? It was only one day.

After a few hours, I stopped thinking about it and became distracted watching other people on their various devices. It’s incredible that even at a place like Disneyland, no one is unplugged. Everyone’s recording everything or taking a selfie, in their own little social media/phone bubble. My friend was keeping count — throughout the day, I mentioned my phone 16 times.

Back in school, I had taken a class in which I was supposed to unplug from all technology for 24 hours. Confession: I considered it, but I may have *cough* fudged my work on that assignment. But, in retrospect, I wish I had participated. We need to be present in our lives and realize that whether or not each moment is captured on Instagram, soon it will be gone, so we better enjoy it. We’re so busy capturing the moment that we forget to actually live in it.

Soon, it became kind of liberating. I was free to have fun and not worry about who was posting on my Facebook wall or who had emailed me. I could fully be present in the moment — even in the moments of just standing in a line. My friend and I actually talked — what a concept! As much as I love social media and its power, there are drawbacks to being glued to our phones 24/7.

A few months ago, I read about Essena O’Neill, an Australian Instagram star who famously quit social media and posted a Youtube video explaining why. While I don’t agree with everything she said, what I loved about her video was that it was thought provoking. We are all addicted to the validation we receive through social media and it’s not healthy.

My 24 hours of being unplugged was an accident, but I would encourage everyone to try it. I ended up having a lovely day and when I finally did check my phone, I realized how unnecessary all of the notifications I would have received throughout the day really were. There’s no doubt that smartphones and social media have made our lives one thousand times easier. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t live without them…even if it’s just for a day!

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