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First person

I turned my phone off for three days and fell apart

By October 2, 2022October 8th, 2022No Comments



Last week, Belinda Vigors turned her phone off for three days. Find out what she learned in that time…


Three. Whole. Days. 

The “Great Switching Off” was precipitated by a combination of things; the arrival of my period, an overwhelming desire to retreat and a dreamy notion that if I could just ‘switch off’ I might be able to do the one thing I can’t seem to do well — rest. 

Whatever the catalysts, it came about in a sudden moment of glorious rage:

“I wish the world would just f**k off!” I said out loud, to no one and everyone. My phone caught my eye in this moment. There it was, occupying its usual close- to-hand place. Dominating my life with its sneaky underhand “dopamine-driven feedback loops”. 

I lunged at it and in one fell swoop had it powered off and dumped to the side.

A moment of anxiety almost broke through the anger and rage, “But what if someone needs to reach me?”. “Let them”, I smirked, and walked away; those most twisted and bitter parts of myself won out.

I was now free to do whatever I wanted. And I had big plans. 

I was going to wrap myself in blankets and read books. I would steep myself in Epsom salts as I took long luxuriant baths. Favourite cakes and breads would be baked. Long walks with time to take in the view would fill up a morning. The only thing I would ask of myself was to engage in indulgence, comfort, and slowness. 

Without my phone to distract me and the ‘switching off from the world’ it symbolised, everything was going to be glorious; I would achieve a utopian-level of rest and I would ‘plug-in’ to the real world. 


I was utterly unprepared for the true reality. 

I have always viewed my phone as a very simple distraction. As The Distraction. The Problem. A thing that vied for my attention in what I call “the shoulders of the day” — the in-between moments— like just after lunch, or waiting for a bus, or standing by the barista counter waiting for a take-away coffee. Moments when you could stop and look at the world, or think, or engage with a fellow human, but instead you pick up your phone and disappear into its 2D metaverse. 

A disappearing act that, really, wasn’t my fault. It was the phone, and the algorithms, and apps and never-ending social media scrolls controlling my brain. The best willpower in the world couldn’t beat that. 

But within the first 12 hours without that “control(ing) system” I had to face a very painful reality; my phone was how I distracted myself from my Self. A sort of self-soothing device. 

I had been filling my day up to the brim. The ‘shoulder’ moments between work and doing taken up with social media scrolling and researching random thoughts on the internet. There was no space available for even staring out a window or getting lost in thought, never mind inner reflection, or what a friend calls “weeding the garden of your mind”. 

So, first day without my phone my Inner Critic arrived. Big Style. Everything got a scrutinising. My work (not good enough), my goals (unclear), my ambition (weak, unfocused), my relationships (tanking, and it was my fault). It was horrendous. No #selfcare ritual could cope. 

Second day without my phone, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was consumed in melancholy. A tsunami of woe washed across my body. The inner critic, buoyed by its opportunity to finally get a word in edge-ways, was on a roll now, its barrage amplified. But something that day shifted, a very subtle realisation that I couldn’t get away from it, so I stopped trying and just listened. Behind the initial pain of the criticism, I had to admit, rested a lot of good sense. A spotlight shone on areas of my life I had left untended, and which needed a good shake-up. 

By the third day, I certainly didn’t feel rested, but I did feel a sort of renewal. That delicate, feathery like feeling that comes when your outlook shifts very slightly, an ineffable “feel good” sensation. I felt able and willing to return to the world, and that I would and could return to it differently. 

I turned my phone on. My world had not blown-up in my absence. Things had not fallen apart. The only person who had really tried to reach me was my father, and when he discovered he couldn’t, he called my husband; the normal, sane actions of a person who grew up in a world not ruled by smart devices.  

Post the “Great Switching On”, everything is the same, but I am not. In the five days that have passed since I turned it back on, I’ve viewed my phone like it is a “dirty object”. I have a hyper-awareness of how much of me it takes over and engaging with it makes me feel dirty. But I know this isn’t going to last long. With each interaction on social media, I can see how much longer I spend on it the next time, as the “infinite scroll” sucks me in for longer and longer, rewiring those connections in my brain I interrupted only briefly. 

Most of us feel that we spend too much time on digital devices, that we are overpowered by them. Taking a “digital detox” now and then often seems like the only way to cope. Proponents cite improved sleep, present-moment awareness and deeper, more meaningful connections, as just some of the joys that await a digital detoxer. But some researchers are much more sceptical, finding that its benefits are few and can, for some, increase anxiety and food cravings

My own experience of a three-day phone break was profound. And I pause here to laugh at the ridiculousness of calling a break from a digital, inanimate object, “profound”. But it was. 

It was profound because of the moment I chose to do it and all that it symbolised. 

I turned off my phone when I was giving myself what Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer —the authors of “Wild Power: Discover the Magic of your Menstrual Cycle and Awaken the Feminine Path to Power”— call “The Big Bleed”. 

The “Big Bleed” is part of their system of “menstrual cycle awareness”, which encourages a slowing down and abandoning of all responsibilities during menstruation to enable rest and repair. Since very few of us menstruating people can ever manage a complete monthly “abandoning of responsibilities” in the hyper-productive world we live in, they encourage giving yourself “a one-off ultimate menstrual experience”. A big blow-out, if ever you get the chance, where you truly abandon all and everything and melt into a “Big Bleed”. 

Being a very typical ‘do-er’ who attaches her self-worth to her output (very healthy, I know!), I have the “Inner Spring” and “Inner Summer” (post menstruation to ovulation) sides of my cycle nailed. It’s the “bleed” part I don’t do so well at. Abandoning all to rest doesn’t come naturally, it feels overly self-indulgent and racks me with guilt. 

Yet, last week, when my period arrived, I was feeling particularly worn out. The call to retreat was loud, and for the first time, possibly ever in my adult life, I seemed to have been gifted a window of opportunity —no immediate deadlines, no pressing responsibilities—where complete abandonment of all could occur, so I jumped in with complete abandon. 

Turning the phone off was a powerful symbol of that abandon, a literal and figurative turning off of the world. But the cosy rest time with books, baths and blankets was not what I got. Freed from both responsibility and distraction, I could neither busy nor divert myself – there was no escape from Me. 

That was profound. Change-making. 

Even now, as I feel the power of my phone over my mind and body ramping up with each day back with it, pulling me away to other realms, I have promised myself that the “Great Switching Off” + “The Big Bleed” will be a more regular thing. My mind needs some tending, a seasonal “gardening”. As hard, as horrible, and as messy as it was, I look forward to the next time I chuck my phone in a corner, announce “f**k off” world, and am left with little else to do but listen.