Living without a smartphone for two full weeks
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Living without a smartphone for two full weeks

Felicia Stendig of Riverdale, N.Y., is a freshman at the Idea School at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly.

Today, when everything you do revolves around technology and your smartphone, can you believe that someone could give up her phone for more than one day?

Well, surprisingly, the answer is yes.

I am a 14-year-old girl who just started high school in September of 2018. As I started high school, I was on my iPhone constantly. Every time I got a break from class, I always found myself on my phone. I honestly didn’t realize how often I was playing games or on social media until one day when we received a one-hour break from class.

I didn’t want to be on my phone because I had been on social media practically the whole day, and I had caught up with all my friends. Shockingly, I found myself bored, and I tried extremely hard not to look or notice that I even had my phone in my possession. This was tremendously challenging for me to accomplish, so within five minutes into the hourlong break, I asked one of my friends who I trusted to hold my phone for the 55 minutes we had left in the break.

My friend replied, “Sorry, I don’t want to be in charge of it, in case something should happen to it.”

After that response I was a little discouraged, although to my surprise my principal was listening. She volunteered to hold onto my phone for me for the remainder of the break. I said “sure” to her kind offer, but of course I was a little hesitant about giving my phone up. But what was the worst that could happen?

As I relinquished my phone, I was tentative, but I knew I had to occupy myself with anything except my phone. For the rest of the hour, I started to talk to my teachers and let them learn a little about me, while I learned a little more about them.

Finally the hour was over, and I could receive my phone, although when I asked for it, I didn’t really feel that I wanted it. It was more the peer pressure that made it seem to me as though I wanted it, so I asked my principal if she could hold it until the end of that day, and she was more than happy to do so. At the end of the day I felt so accomplished!

The following day my principal asked if she could hold my phone. This time, though, instead of my not having it for a couple of hours, I wouldn’t see it for the complete school day. My school day is about nine hours, so this was a big deal for me.

When the school day first started, I was perfectly fine without my phone, though as the day continued, I found myself challenged because everyone else had their phones and technology. My friends were on social media and on games, while I had none of that sort of entertainment to occupy myself with.

Once I successfully completed one day without having my phone, I kept handing it over to my principal for the entirety of my school day. This became a common routine for me, and I had to start thinking of other ways to keep myself busy while we were on breaks, so I started drawing, reading, and even revising some of my uncompleted work while my other classmates were on their phones.

As I disconnected from my phone and other technology devices, this routine of occupying myself during school hours started to become more natural, and I had to be reminded by others around me to take my phone home. One ordinary day of school, I was off my phone and occupied with other work until the end of the day. I left the school building and was heading home, when suddenly I had realized I forgotten my phone! At this point in my trip home, it was too late to turn back. I was shocked and scared, and as soon as I got home, I rushed to my computer and emailed my principal, who still was holding my phone for me. She answered, “You’ll have your phone back soon.” The following day — a Friday — was extremely busy with school work, and I forgot to take my phone back again for the second day in a row. I was extremely frustrated with myself, because this time not only would I not have it for one single night, but the entire weekend!

I emailed my principal for the second time, but even though I was upset about forgetting my phone, I started to understand that yes, I wouldn’t be able to continue my streaks on Snapchat and be up to date on Instagram. But I decided that social media wasn’t going to run my life, and that I would survive without my phone for a few days. It was a great way for me to unplug from what’s trending and going viral.

When Monday came along, I was refreshed by not having my phone and excited to tell all my friends that I had accomplished the dreadful feat of not having a phone for more than 100 hours! Now, as I have proven to myself that I can live the typical life of a 14-year-old without a phone, I leave it with my principal overnight during the week and the weekends. In the evenings, since I don’t have my phone, I pursue my love and passion for gymnastics, tumbling, flipping, and stretching all night long.

Although I may not have my phone, I do have an iPad and a Macbook, so I can still go on Google and YouTube, but I can’t Snapchat, check Instagram, call, text, or WhatsApp my friends. Throughout this journey of relinquishing my phone for hours, days, weeks — and possibly even months — I learned that you may not realize or understand the severity of peer pressure and how much it can affect your decision-making as a person.

In the beginning of this self-experiment with not having my phone my friends and classmates said, “You should get your phone back. You need it. What do you do without it?” I respond — and I believe — that you don’t need a phone to survive in the 21st century. All you need is a loving, caring atmosphere, where you can be yourself and let your inner self shine, and not hide behind your phone on social media. If you do this, if you do hide behind your phone, you can miss out on life’s biggest opportunities.

Felicia Stendig of Riverdale, N.Y., is a freshman at
the Idea School at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades
in Tenafly.

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