It was Wednesday when I decided to try life without a smartphone. I was lunching with an old friend at one of our favorite farm-to-table molecular gastronomy food trucks in Larchmont proper. My companion was wrapping up another anecdote about his friend’s cat when I realized that I’d barely heard any of the story. Instead of laughing and enjoying my summer salad of pork foam and slick prunes, I had been glued to my phone counting “likes” on a Vine I’d posted on vacation of me smashing plates and shrieking at my cousin’s wife.
When I looked up, my friend had finished his story and was staring at his own smartphone. He was grimacing at a Snapchat of his girlfriend’s undercarriage which had clearly been intended for someone else. I dug my fingernails into his arm. Feeling the tenor of the day shift, he asked: “Are you okay?” I turned away and texted him a selfie. “You’re shaking and you have a nosebleed,” he said, replying to his girlfriend with a poorly composed photo of himself jamming a thumb into his own eye. I flipped the table and stormed off.
Cut to later that night. I was ankles up in the bathtub favoriting tweets from a local newscaster trying to forget the miserable Tinder date I’d just been on. (No comment!) I found myself looking at that selfie from earlier.
Who was this girl with the pursed lips, perfect eyebrows, and a dry nosebleed? Was she living up to her full potential? Was I looking at the real me or just a reflection in the funhouse mirror of my prototype iPhone 6?
I couldn’t sleep. My phone kept chirping and jittering. In the morning I stumbled down the staircase and choked down a chunky breakfast smoothie. I felt bad. I walked my dog in a way that made clear to him that he was imposing. Was I living my whole life online? Was I missing out on all the wonders reality has to offer?
I decided to do an experiment. I called my friend from lunch. Once we got both our speakerphones to work, I convinced him that we should both stay off our smartphones for as long as we could. No tweets, vines, grams, or tumbles for me. No emails, emojis, or digital stag movies for him. Did it kill us? Only a little (more on that later). Here’s what we learned from nearly three hours of being Off the Grid:
TIPS AND LESSONS
Without the beeps and whirs of a cellphone, you can use your ears to detect crickets, mice, or other vermin in your home.
It’s just as easy to carry around $400 cash in a little case that you can leave at a bar or drop down a subway grate.
At a concert, I could just close my eyes and ignore the performance instead of videotaping it.
You can Google yourself at your local public library or ask the research desk where the secret books about you are shelved.
Crickets are too fast and too smart to be killed by throwing a shoe.
LIFE WITHOUT “APPS”
Lyft drivers will still pick you up and drive you short distances as long as you have enough confidence and a little mystery behind the eyes—wink!
I could use my imagination to picture my friends at parties I wasn’t invited to without worrying about going over my data cap.
You can get directions from a stranger on the sidewalk instead of using Google Maps. You’ll get where you need to go along with a fun new friend and a kiss on the lips!
Having crickets does not mean that you can’t also have mice.
Why text while sitting in traffic when you can roll your window down and ask the driver of the car next to you to quickly guess your deepest insecurities and shout them at you until traffic picks up again?
You don’t need a weather app to tell you if it’s going to rain, just look at the sun without blinking. If you sneeze, get a poncho.
FOR THE GIRL ON THE GOIf you find yourself really “jonesing” for a smartphone “fix,” just lure a mouse out of your kitchen and into your palm. Turn him belly-up and stroke him to sleep with your pointer finger.
Instead of buying prescription drugs online, just stare at a blank wall and slow your heartbeat with your mind until all of time unfolds in front of you and cracks like a cosmic egg. YOLO!
Use pay phones to prank-call your favorite teachers from middle school, but use your real name and ask how they’ve been.
Set the mice against the crickets.
FOR THE GUYS
You can masturbate to memories.
FOR THE RECENTLY DIVORCED AND SEARCHING You can attract potential mates with your pungent pheromones as easily as with a witty OkCupid profile, just thicken your body hair.
Instead of taking pictures of your food, impress your date by sending your dish back to the kitchen with a handwritten note asking the chef to guess what’s wrong with it.
Without Shazam, you can plausibly take credit for having written and performed any song you happen to hear on the radio.
At the end of our experiment, my friend and I both felt a little more in touch with our world and ourselves. But over a second helping of irradiated duck froth at our Larchmont haunt we had to concede that having a smartphone is more than a necessity for conducting life in the modern world: it’s a requirement. After flipping the same table, we noted that being out of touch from professional contacts and social media for just two hours had left us abandoned by everyone we’d ever loved.
We laughed at what a silly coincidence it was that after that third hour, we’d both wandered aimlessly to a remote part of town, disoriented and afraid, only to encounter the same vicious stranger who beat us bloody and left us groaning in a potter’s field looking up from the same shallow grave at a sanitation worker shoveling dirt onto our bones.
Check, please! I’ll be paying with Venmo on my smartphone, unless you take crickets!
Love and Life,