If you know me, you know that my job quite literally requires me to be on my phone. As someone who works in social media, I'm constantly scrolling through Instagram and Twitter for work. Even when I'm off the clock, I find myself falling into a vortex searching for the next best meme. In all honesty, my relationship with my phone is akin to having a boundaryless, overbearing, clingy partner—me being the clingy one. I'm not the only one: Americans are said to spend half of their day looking at screens, which is why, when I had the opportunity to not set up a Wi-Fi connection in my apartment, I decided to surrender to a Wi-Fi–free existence. Additionally, the weak signal in my studio meant that I couldn't use the data on my phone plan either, so by extension, this also meant I'd be taking a break from scrolling at home and therefore forced to face realities I was normally able to escape through social media. While taking the red pill, so to speak, may not be something everyone can swallow, I have to say the benefits of disconnecting from the internet have surprised even me. Read on for some of the unexpected benefits of cutting the cord, along with tricks to survive an internet-less home.
For me, the idea of having one fewer bill to pay was what initially sold me on giving an internet-free space a spin. Wi-Fi alone can cost $50 a month; that's $600 a year. Putting that into perspective, that's a cross-country roundtrip flight, 120 coffees, or eight months of a ClassPass membership. And while cutting the cord isn't for everyone—you have to think of your bottom line and your lifestyle—it's worth considering if you're trying to cut down costs. Screen time is costly, and if you're using your steady Wi-Fi connection to binge-watch seven seasons of Scandal on Netflix and not speak to anyone all weekend (like me), it might be something to think about. Not only can you take back your cash, but you can take back your most priceless commodity: time. Furthermore, it's worth noting that it's a privilege to be able to decide if you want internet access, as parts of the world don't have steady access or aren't able to afford data. But if you do have a choice, it's up to you to decide what you're willing to pay for and if having a Wi-Fi–free space fits your household needs.
One of the most unexpected benefits of living without internet in my apartment is the amount of time I've gained because I'm not mindlessly scrolling for horoscope memes. While I'll occasionally set up a hotspot with my phone when I'm in dire need of internet time, I find that when I get home and there's no signal and no data, it forces me to be present in the moment. Rather than opening an app out of boredom or loneliness, I'm forced to sit in the hotbed of emotions that I've been ignoring all day and rumble with them. While this statement alone is enough to terrify most, it's actually helped with my anxiety and given me time to connect to my inner voice. Most of us—myself included—move through the motions of social media without even thinking about it. We will be driving or stressed out, replaying the same thoughts about the events of our lives, and the way we cope with our mental anguish is by opening our app of choice. And when we're on social media, we stalk some girl in Australia who's only sharing the highlight reel of her life, or swipe left on every human to appease our ego. The swiping and scrolling might make us feel better at first, but in reality, this seemingly small vice makes us feel shittier than before because these apps aren't necessarily designed to uplift.
I cannot tell you how liberating it is to open an app and see the loading wheel. That wheel is an invitation to pause and ask myself how likes or comments are really going to make me feel better about my life. How is checking what a celebrity is doing with their life actually benefiting mine? And it's different for everyone, but if you find yourself constantly comparing your life to someone else's or stalking your ex to see what they're up to, it might be time to try injecting conscious behavior into your scrolling habits. If you don't have the courage to cut the cord, even pausing for four seconds before going on a Tinder bender is a good start.
Sleepin' like a baby
Some people can pull all-nighters or function on four hours of sleep. I am not one of those people. In fact, if I don't have coffee first thing in the morning or get a bare minimum of eight hours of sleep, you better believe the dragon within me will come out to play. So when I no longer had the option to scroll until 1 a.m., I became the embodiment of Sleeping Beauty. Blue light is not a joke, people. The light that comes from our precious phones has been proven to disrupt sleep cycles, and though not proven, the wavelengths created by our Wi-Fi have been accused of doing the same. There's still research being done around how radio frequency impacts our bodies, but from personal experience, not clutching my phone until I pass out and not looking at it first thing in the morning have improved my sleep and overall joy. I can't even remember the last time I set an alarm to wake up, because when I'm not living on the wavelength of tech, I'm able to ride my body's own cycle.
True Airplane Mode
Most people can name that one person in their life who's constantly texting or calling them. Wi-Fi makes it that much easier to respond within three minutes. But really, should you be at everyone's beck and call? The answer is no. I can't tell you how liberating it is to be able to use my lack of Wi-Fi or a good signal as an excuse to respond back to people in the morning or to flat-out not get the FaceTime call. Every call, every text, and every DM take up your precious time. Do you really want to spend it on other people's timelines? Don't get me wrong; when your loved ones need you, be there, but if they're sending you another panda meme, maybe you can leave them unread for a bit and pick up a book instead. I promise the world will not end if you take a break from texting, and you'll be a better human for it.
Phoneless hobbies? They Exist
The time I'd spend holed up in my apartment scrolling through Twitter has been upheaved, and I'm here for it. Rather than spending the weekend scrolling, I've been forced to go out and explore the world, and I can report it's not that scary. In fact, you can do it too. I admit I had to avoid the urge to run to a café and plug back in, but on this journey, I wish someone had told me to take a yoga class or pottery class, to volunteer—basically to get a damn hobby. Stop living for the likes and go do something you actually like. I know it's harsh, but thinking back, I'm mildly embarrassed by the terror my body felt the first time I ever took yoga and the teacher said "no phones." I couldn't survive without my phone for an hour? I was tripping. But once I became accustomed to that no-phone hobby, it became the way I got over a toxic relationship, made interesting friends, and it lit a fire under my ass to book a trip to Paris. I promise the more time you spend doing things rather than documenting things, the more things will positively change for you.
Connecting IRL (rather than on the internet)
Maybe the greatest benefit of all is being able to assess when I’m using my phone as a get-out-of-being-social card. While I’ve always had friends who value real face time (not the iPhone kind), being able to live sans internet has made me more aware of how connected I actually am to the people in my life and reminded me to allocate time for fostering the type of relationships I want in my life. Time spent tagging friends in memes is time that could be spent creating real-life memories with friends. At the risk of sounding a little old-school, there's something magical about having a four-hour, eye contact–heavy conversation with a loved one during which no one picks up their phone. I'm not suggesting we deactivate our Snapchat accounts; I'm merely suggesting that we've gotten so accustomed to dodging the eyes of people around us and looking for connection through DMs that we've traded a lifetime of experiences for screen time. While there's no going back—and frankly, no one should have to live without the chuckle prompted from a great meme—maybe we can find ways to live that aren't for the 'gram but merely coexist with it, understanding that the best moments in life often can't even begin to be appreciated or felt in the confines of 140 characters.