A dumbphone for 30 days: how it didn’t change my life (but also did)
As mentioned in a previous post and on my twitter, I used a dumbphone for 30 days. Specifically, a Nokia 6300 4G.
There are a lot of videos out there about how using a dumbphone has completely given that person back their attention span, focus, positivity, and so on. They sell it as a life-changing experience.
I can’t say I’ve found that to be the case.
What I have experienced as a result of using the Nokia, however, is:
Less time looking at my phone at work…but that also meant more time talking or getting distracted by my surroundings, as I also couldn’t use music/brown noise to block out the chatter of colleagues.
More meaningful communication (texts) with people, as it took longer to type out a message and I couldn’t just send memes. I thought more about what I was writing and was less wordy than usual.
Regular irritation when trying to quickly get directions somewhere, or when trying to pay for parking as I couldn’t just use an app (and never carry cash).
Listening to a lot more Classic FM whilst driving, which was actually rather pleasant.
I stopped relying on digital organisation and reminders, and instead managed my life in a tiny notebook. Everything was centralised in it, rather than being scattered across multiple apps. I didn’t have to think about where to put things; I just added it to the next blank line.
The downside of this, however, was that I could no longer just shout at Siri to remind me to do something at a particular date, time, or location. Things therefore fell through the cracks now and then. On more than one occasion when driving I had to find the nearest place to pull over, the entire time chanting what I wanted to remember, so I could write it down. Lots of jokes about ‘burner phones’ and drug dealing! In short, a balance of positive, neutral, and negative things.
There were indirect side effects, such as thinking more about getting away from screens – I bought paper books and actively tried to read more. I didn’t read on my phone before, but thinking about screentime made me consciously move towards paper rather than my iPad or laptop.
My screentime barely changed. It averaged at around 5hrs/day before, during, and after. Now I’ve swapped back to my iPhone, the iPhone screentime only accounts for 34mins/day (avg) of that.
One reason for this may be that I primarily use my laptop when I’m at home – so I was still heavily using social media and engaging in mindless scrolling. It only cut down my time when I was out of the house. On days where I pulled long hours at work, away from home, my screentime dropped to mere minutes – 15-20mins, which I imagine was the ASMR videos I watched when falling asleep.
Does this mean my laptop is the problem? Possibly. Does that mean I’m going to try 30 days without my laptop? Nope. Not yet, at least.
How have I changed my habits now?
Um. Not massively.
I’ve deleted a bunch of apps – there were lots I only used on my phone, and not using them for a month showed I really didn’t need or miss them. I therefore still don’t notice their absence.
The scrolling at work came back almost instantly, which was disappointing.
The notebook will stay as I love that little thing.
So far I’m still reading more, and specifically more paper books rather than kindle ones. I even got a library card!
What did I learn?
My phone is not the problem. You need to think about it in the context of a tech ecosystem.
Digital productivity tools are overrated – you can’t go wrong with a trusty little notebook.
Paper books are great.
Would I recommend the experiment?
I would, actually. I learnt a lot about how I actually use technology, which in turn made me more mindful about it.
If you use your phone as your primary device, you may find it has a more significant impact – maybe you will experience the lifechanging effects those influencers describe!
Either way, it was an interesting experiment.