Experiment timeframe: February 2019 - December 2021

Would I be smarter without a smart phone?

Beginning of last year, I started wondering whether my smart phone, with all its related effects (evident or not so yet) on my habits and intellect, have a net postitive or a net negative impact. So I started to test removing my smart phone from different settings, in phases.

Motivation

Smart phones enabled us, individuals and businesses, in ways that were utterly unimaginable just about 20 years ago. In that sense, they are truly a great upgrade to our life that have placed immediate access to marvellous technology in our bare hands.

Almost two decades have passed on since then. The wow effect is fading out, and some studies seem to uncover some of the (side) effects that might not be great on the economics of the internet or on us as individuals. Such impact may include:

I am obviously interested in finding out how my smart phone have affected me as an individual in this experiment. More specifically, I want to answer one main question: do I seem to be living a smarter life-style with or without a smart phone?

Approach

To answer that question, I am starting by attributing some of things that seem to prevent me from spending my time in a “smarter” manner to the presence of the smart phone on me at all times. It’s possible to turn out more granular than that of course, as in some of the impact might be related to certain apps/mediums or to the fact of always being connected to the internet, or even completely unrelated.

Those negatively-charged observations are:

  1. steady increase of FOMO anxiety. I seem to have that by nature, but it certainly kept increasing over the last 10 years, and only started decreasing when I actively started forcing myself out of it. More on how in a later post.
  2. steady decrease in my ability to focus through a complex thought or discussion over the last 4-5 years. I used to be able to hold such complex sessions for as long as 3-4 hours without the need for a break. Now that seems to have decreased to maximum of 1 hour.
  3. a bad habit to always require external input, especially new input. I started to feel uncomfortable if I don’t listen to a new piece of music, or read a new joke or watch a new silly youtube video everyday.
  4. steady decrease to commit to a long-lived project, like reading a thick book or watching a long series of video tutorials, even if that project might benefit me significantly in mid- to long-term.

I’m going with this experiment with phases, where in each of them I remove the smart phone entirely in a specific setting or time-period.

More on these phases in the checklist at the bottom.

I will be tracking energy spent (time, depth, impact) on the following activities/habits:

  • reading books, mainly non-fiction with some being related to my field
  • listening to and engaging in deep conversations around important or controversial topics of the day
  • attending social events and activities, as well as spending time with close friends
  • producing content directed from my field of expertise towards younger practitioners and students, in the form of writing or streaming
  • memorable and meaningful experiences with my family
  • advancing my expertise and career

The reason I believe that tracking those seemingly self-evident metrics is going to be a good measurement, is due to my nature as a generally lazy person who is not self-motivated to achive things that do not seem to have direct external tangible outcome on myself or people I care about. Therefore, it is very unlikely that I would be motivated to work towards any outcome just for the sake of wanting that outcome, since there’s no clear tangible value to be seen either way.

It might not work that way for everyone of course, much like how all the assumptions and effects I’m checking here might not be valid at all for everyone.

Checklist
  • Phase 1 (Feb-Apr 2019). No smart phone at home

    It was frustrating in the beginning. Then it started to be boring, but eventually I started taking care more often of things at home. Like reorganizing the mess, spending more time preparing food, and playing with my 1-year-old daughter :)

  • Phase 2 (May-Jul 2019). No internet on the road

    The main thing that was annoying is finding routes. I had to write them down on a piece of paper. But that got better real quick.
    A positive change was that I started reading a lot more on the way to and from work, whether a book or downloaded stuff on my phone.
    But the best of all was that I started again wandering in my mind, while appreciating views of the city while I pass by them or just observing what's happening around me. An experience I would never have expected I would miss that much.

  • Phase 3 (Jan-Mar 2020). Smart phone only at home

    So far, I'm strengthening the habits I built from previous phases. And surprisingly, eventhough I still have my smart phone at home always connected to the internet, I definitely have reduced the amount of time I have it in my hand and in front of my eyes significantly.
    It also seems to have helped in organizing my screen time in general, as now I tend to do things that need pc/internet access around one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. Work stuff excluded of course.
    I am even reading books at home again now, which is something I haven't done for years.

  • Phase 4 (Jul-Sep 2020). No smart phone at all on weekends

  • Phase 5 (Oct-Dec 2020). Smart phone only on weekends

  • Phase 6 (Jan-Dec 2021). No smart phone at all