I haven’t used a smartphone in a year. This is how I feel about it

I did the notorious “digital detox” for a whopping twelve months. But not because I wanted to be in on the trend or “rediscover myself”. It happened because I’m an idiot.

Overall, I’m a very clumsy person. I forget, lose and drop things all of the time. You might have noticed that my Messy fact on our Meet The Team page reads “has lost 8 U-Cards since being at Uni”. I’ve had to spend almost 50 quid on replacing U-Cards. When I scan my card to get into the library or gym, whoever is on front desk often quietly mutters something along the lines of “eight cards? Jesus.” That gives you a good indication of the levels of clumsiness and carelessness we’re talking about here. What’s worse is that I’m lackadaisical about it.

As you can imagine then, every phone I’ve ever had has been perpetually cracked. If phones could feel pain (it’s only a matter of time), then my phone have would seen me as a sick and twisted monster who makes it suffer relentlessly, forcing it to limp on in agony while I look at memes.

In May 2023, my poor phone was put out of its misery. After a swim in Sheffield’s beautiful Rivelin Valley, I wanted to take some photos of the gorgeous scene. While standing on the slippery rocks which hang over the water, I briefly lost balance. As I was flailing my arms to regain some stability, my phone slipped out and smashed against the rocks below before flying into the water. I dived in to get it but the damage was done. The already cracked screen was now obliterated and the whole thing soaked to the battery. Somehow the SIM card survived.

The next day, I was travelling to the middle of nowhere in Cornwall to camp on a beach with friends, and so really did need at least a cell phone in case of emergencies. After all, I’m not a complete troglodyte. I bought a Nokia 105 in a snazzy cyan colour (also featured on our Meet The Team page) for 25 quid from Argos and put my SIM in it. The closest thing this thing has to an app is a 32-bit version of Doodle Jump.

Yet 12 months later, this Nokia brick is still the only phone I use. Honestly: it’s changed my life.


There’s nothing at all scientific or psychological behind this, living without a proper phone has added more time to my day. Suddenly my daily appointments with Instagram Reels, which would normally last between one and two hours, stop. This time wasn’t (and still isn’t) always spent productively. TV, video games and other forms of dilly-dallying still exist. But if you have read our piece on the impact of social media and attention span then you’ll know that the only things worse for your brain than mindless scrolling are the things that you buy with cash from someone dodgy in the dead of night. Ironically, this brick phone does make me look like a flamboyant drug dealer.

Comparatively, my new ways of wasting time were at least more thought provoking or interactive and enjoyable. No one ever hates themselves for watching an episode or two on Netflix in the same way that they might after watching TikTok for two hours. Best case scenario, I would read an actual physical book.

I should confess that I didn’t go full cold turkey and still use social media from time to time. I’ve got this half tablet, half laptop thingy so I still use Snapchat as my main way of DMing when not in an emergency and I still use WhatsApp web for work. But I can’t take a laptop to the pub. I can’t have it readily on hand at all unless I bring a bag. So, I can only take it somewhere if I actually need it, not if I might have an urge to scroll.

As a result, I’ve found that I’m more in the moment when with friends or family, and not half focused on my phone. That itch for constant stimulation isn’t around anymore and it’s so much easier to get absorbed in conversation. On the other hand, I’ve caught myself staring into space much more, but this idleness is nice to have from time to time.

Finally, and I’m aware this sounds ridiculous, but it’s simply easier to think. An internal monologue has started to develop again which I didn’t fully realise I’d lost in the first place. I know there’s no way to truly measure something like that and it could all be placebo, but thoughts and ideas feel sharper and louder than they did before.


As nice as it is to feel more present around others and more switched off when the time is right, having no smartphone in 2024 causes chaos in terms of practicality. Having poor signal renders this funky coloured brick useless, for a start.

If a restaurant makes me scan a QR code for the menu and doesn’t have any physical menus (which happens more than you’d think) that’s a problem. If I forget my wallet (remember I’m clumsy) and need to use Google Pay to buy something, that’s a problem. If I need a digital ticket to get into a club or a gig, that’s a problem. The number of times I’ve relied on my friends to help me out with these things because of my caveman ways is too many to count. Don’t even get me started on life without Google Maps.

Without a doubt, the worst part of my working day is when Google, University services or whoever it may be asks me to complete two step verification via email or smartphone app. If I haven’t got my laptop-tablet, then procrastination of the task I was going to do sets in. Equally, if someone sends an urgent email that I need to see for my own good, then it’s down to chance for whether I open it in time. If this all sounds very dysfunctional, that’s because it is.

On the less palpable side of things, FOMO was hard to handle at first. Something which I used to really enjoy and jumped on the bandwagon of early was BeReal. Having no smartphone tossed me off the bandwagon, the cart having already reached maximum acceleration with every Uni student in the country clinging on. Being able to capture special memories through photos is an amazing thing. Not having that magical power available at all times is something I’ve sorely missed.

Finally, who wouldn’t miss having every song ever made in their back-pocket. I’d get a real phone again just for that reason alone.

Overall, going 12 months without a smartphone has been good for me. But when my Nokia brick falls down a well, I’ll succumb to modernity and buy a smartphone again. And, in a different way, that smartphone will change my life once again.

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