No Smartphone for Lent

nophoneEvery year for Lent I try to give something up that I would otherwise find unimaginable or consider myself particularly dependent on. Last year I gave up meat, which isn’t that unusual but you have to remember I’m from Texas. 😉

This year as I surveyed my life there was one thing I kept coming back to as being completely dependent on: my smartphone(s). It’s only been a few years since the iPhone came out, but it’s inconceivable to imagine my life today without my calendar, email, Foursquare, Path, Chrome, Tripit, Simplenote, WordPress, Tweetbot, Sonos, Uber, Spotify and my iTunes library, and most importantly Google Maps. (On my second screen: SmartThings, Nest, Lociktron, Lutron, 1Password, Calm, Authy, NextDraft, Withings, Circa…) These apps and everything they represent weave into every aspect of my life, I’m sure I’m one of those people who looks at their phone at least 150 times a day. My smartphone is my camera, my flashlight, my connection to the world, and my crutch.

A small selection of what a phone replaces, from Reddit.

And now it’s what I’m giving up for Lent in 2014, from March 5th until April 17th. (Yes, that includes SxSW.) For safety and business reasons I’m going to have a makes-phone-calls-only phone, and might hop in a friend’s Uber, but the idea is there will not be a device on me 24/7 that I’m tethered to, constantly looking at, and lost and hopeless without. You obviously can’t turn back the clock on progress, so I don’t expect this to be a permanent thing, but I’m curious what I miss the most, how it affects my ability to focus throughout the day, and how it changes my relationships with other people, especially the lack of messaging.

I am in the market for a cool feature phone though, maybe a small one like Zoolander had or a slidey one like in the Matrix. Any suggestions?

I’ll leave you with the “I forgot my phone” video from last year:

41 thoughts on “No Smartphone for Lent

      1. Putting wine on pause for Lent this year. Replacing wine with WordPress “Community” & “Documentation” commitments. Signed-up for “Community” yesterday; will commit to “Documentation” today.

        BTW, @Dondashouse is on fire. There’s a lot of WP love “brewing” in that house. Hope you saw some of their nice, “Proudly Powered by WordPress since 2008” tweets… They are easy to find via search.

        Again, for the record…we need to get you a curved soprano sax, with a contoured case. Clip your camera to the handle of the small, contoured case and shed all over the world! We know you have “maad chops”

        Don’t wanna be a sax nag , but we know you have “maaaaad chops!” Off to the shed… BTW, the #WPTHINKTANK was awesome! 😉

  1. Matt, I’m not sucking up to Google but their Nexus 5 Reviews looks promising for mobile. I bought one Samsung smartphone and a mini Galaxy last year, both batteries overheat along with other miserable features and as a consumer, that isn’t a fair investment. My #tip is either the Nexus Black or White models, read the reviews on:

    1. You gotta re-read. 🙂 I’m not looking for another smartphone, I’m giving up all smartphones (including my Nexus 5) for about 6 weeks.

    1. Things that send a text message or phone call should still be fine. For Google Authenticator style ones I don’t know yet.

      1. Was going to ask the same thing. Depending on how often you need the codes, you might be able use the “printed” backup codes as well (keep a copy in a notebook of some sort).

      2. I was going to ask the same as Kirk… Are you removing tablets also? If not, you could setup authenticator on one of those 🙂

        Good luck, this is an interesting experiment. Curious to see if you’ll have the shakes at sxsw 😉

    2., LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, and GitHub all offer SMS-based 2FA, which I use instead of locking my codes inside of the Google Authenticator app. Even for those of you who carry around a smartphone I’d suggest trying out SMS-based 2FA for a while. It eliminates the fear of accidentally wiping out your smartphone or having it stolen (some services like GitHub will never allow access into an account if you don’t have backup codes for your 2FA and need customer service intervention; you’re out of luck).

  2. I’ve been off my smartphone for a couple of months now. The experience is a lot like fasting (in a good way). It’s really enlightening. I don’t think I’d recommend it, but I bought this crazy/tiny feature phone for my adventure –

    Good luck.

  3. I’m curious what I miss the most, how it affects my ability to focus throughout the day, and how it changes my relationships with other people

    I recently removed Facebook, Tweetbot, and the Reddit App from my phone in an attempt to improve my focus and change my relationship with other people. In other words, stop being that guy, or worse that dad, always checking my phone. It’s been about a month now I think. The first week was tough with legitimate cravings. It reminded me of quitting smoking. There’s still more to remove my phone. 🙂

  4. I haven’t had a data plan in over 2 years, and use a pay as you go plan as well. Part was to cut expenses. The other, and I appreciate this much more now, is to have time to think with less distraction. It’s been quite liberating; I don’t feel like I’m “on call” or a slave to internet distractions all the time. It forces me to plan an outing, for instance printing out driving directions, before I go! If I feel I need to check something it’s usually not hard to find wifi. If I can’t, I can pay a dollar for the day to get 10mb.

  5. This is a great one. Will be really interesting to see how you go, especially because people don’t use phones as a phone anymore!

    I’m giving up TV… should be interesting!

  6. I’m sure that I have a Nokia 7380 lying around. That phone will probably disconnect you more than you want from the world.

    It’s a really commendable goal for Lent. I’m really debating cutting off social media all together.

  7. Hi Matt,

    What if you just get an old school Nokia? Back before the iPhone I was happy with my Nokia 2115i. Wasn’t interested in the Razr, Chocolate, LG, Palm, or any other garbage at the time. The Nokia was solid. Best of all, it was small and compact. Not a flip phone or slider. One of those phones where you punch home + delete (or something like that) to open. It was great with text and the phone was reliable. All I needed. You would have to go back to qwerty though.

    Hope you don’t think I’m being sarcastic. I’ve been thinking of doing the same thing as an experiment. To let go of my iPhone for a long period. I feel that I’ve been too dependent on it recently. It ‘s kind’a sad.

    Anyway, I’m not sure there’s anything out there that is as solid, compact and simple as that Nokia.

    Best of luck!

  8. Wow! You are actually going to love it and actually find that your productivity can even increase. The first day you feel a sense of panic that you are “missing out” but it soon goes away as you get used to it. The thing that you will miss in terms of marketing is using the camera. Anyhow enjoy the experience!


  9. I will be the next one to recommend Nokia. In this case the Nokia 206, because it is what I use. As a featurephone it is able to run Facebook and WhatsApp – two essential tools for keeping in touch with other students – and Opera Mini. With that its internal application memory is pretty much maxed out.

    It was build to be cheap, this means no 3G, no WiFi. EGPRS (“EDGE”) is the fastest you’ll go. Camera? Sure, 1.3 MP, nearly without digital zoom, no flash.

    Being barren on hardware functions I would say this encourages to bring other tools along for the appropriate goals. If you need photos: bring a camera. If you need WiFi: bring a tablet. It also means it can save a lot in the energy department an you are not likely to find yourself without a charged battery when you need to make those important phone calls.

  10. Nokia feature phones come with a crazy battery life. Choose any one, it’ll last you at least three weeks on one charge. Another device you can get rid off – mobile charger 🙂

  11. I have up my iMac last year, but then I didn’t have an iPad Mini. So …. Thanks for the inspiration, Matt, and for being a positive witness of your Faith!! If you might go back to a camera, you’ll never go wrong with a Pentax.

  12. A parallel / complimentary recommendation – pick up a 3-pack of Field Notes books, Doane Utility Journals or Scout Books, and use some of that freed-up face time to capture your thoughts in analog. A Kaweco Sport pen makes a great companion for any of these – the two together make writing a true joy.

  13. That is a challenging sacrifice, good luck. Any Nokia is a great feature phone 🙂
    May you have a blessed Lenten season.

  14. All I can really say is props Matt.

    If you pull it off, you will have to write a followup to this. I cringed and nearly had a panic attack just thinking about it. Going to have nightmares now…

    Best of luck!

    1. I don’t have any problem with it being tied to religion, or any tradition. I grew up Catholic and it’s a useful marker for me, I have lots of friends who aren’t Catholic who do it as well.

  15. Impressive! I thought I was going for a challenge by giving up 2 of my favorite things for Lent – carbs and Diet Coke – but giving up your smartphone (and during SxSW, no less) takes things to a whole new level. I may have to try it next year!

  16. I admire your decision… I doubt I would survive a single day without (ab)using my smartphone to see if you’ve posted something new to your blog.

    You could help me though – simply write less addictive. 😉

  17. That is awesome. I haven’t been a consistent Lenten observer, but this year I am giving up “not” getting at least 3500 steps in before I otherwise start my day. It feels good so far 🙂

  18. My nephew (14 years old) last year gave up “everything with a screen” for Lent. No TV, no iPod, no computer. He did a WHOLE lot of reading books, and otherwise drove other people batty.

    But overall I was pretty impressed that he hung in there for the whole time. This kid is wired, and it was a lot to let go of. (He did still use a computer as much as was needed to do schoolwork.)