When I was kid, I saw something on TV. A handheld device on the show Star Trek. I think it more resembled a flip phone than today’s smartphones, but the idea that you could have video phone calls and location services sounded so fantastic to me that I built my own “communicator” from a piece of cardboard.
Jump ahead 22 years.
When I moved house last summer, the first things that found a spot in my new apartment were my record player, my typewriter, and a stack of empty Field Notes memo books. My girlfriend likes to tease me about collecting these memo books. Maybe I sound like the cliché of a poet here but an empty page can give me tingles. Paper and pen hold the promise of thoughts becoming genius words and perfectly sculpted little phrases. At least in theory.
I write for a living. My field is the business of corporate publishing, making me a journalist on behalf of brands. I like my job. I get to tell stories. But with long days in the agency, hacking away at concepts and copy, my mind demands distraction when I have time off.
What’s keeping me attached?
You’d expect I’d have had enough of bright screens when I am off the clock. But somehow, as I sit on the bus home, on the sofa after dinner or even in bed, my little device calls to me, asking me to swipe its shiny black screen. I don’t want to put all the blame on my iPhone – it’s one of the pinnacles of human design. You could say its features make me a more powerful man than Napoleon was in his time. But using it is dancing on a fine line between self-control and tech addiction. I am wired in a way that makes me prone to digital sugar, whether it comes in the form of a flashy news headline or a self-playing video on Instagram, a mini game or my Spotify playlist.
At the end of the day, I have found my gaze landing on a new book I had planned on reading, or my typewriter, waiting there to produce a new poem. Where did my time go? Had I controlled my phone or had it controlled me? Am I that easy to manipulate?
As I write this, I am indeed listening to Spotify – and three screens in front of me are ready to deliver me the latest email, client feedback, and WhatsApp message. Because nothing can wait. Or can it?
Let me get to the point: for 120 hours, my iPhone remained switched off while I carried around a snow-white Punkt. MP01 mobile phone. I had read and consumed almost every piece of content about the design, functionality, and ethos of Punkt. and its minimalist phone. I had been eager to put it to the test and was not intimidated or overwhelmed when the MP01 became my sole connection to the outside world. I had simply started carrying it one day with the aim of getting a feel for the physical sensation of carrying a different shape in my pocket.
120 hours of Digital Detox
What started as a trial run quickly became my 120 hours. I went through my contacts and came up with 15 phone numbers worth saving in my MP01 – and then just started my day. In my coat pocket: one of my Field Notes memo books. Over the next five days, I pulled it out whenever I had time to kill. Waiting at a restaurant or waiting for the bus. It gave me a taste of what I should be doing every day: writing for myself. I started watching people, noticing new details on my way to work, feeling fresh ideas arrive. The beginning of a mind-reset. The paper rectangle replaced my shiny black rectangle of a super computer.
I didn’t fill the entire memo book in these five days of digital abstinence. I still work in a communication agency, where keeping up with the digital work plays a huge role. But I got to see a nostalgic glimpse of the less connected life I had in my teens. ‘Less connected’ may be the wrong term – I started calling people. At first, my social circle treated me with suspicion. Was something wrong, that meant I was calling instead of messaging? My girlfriend was afraid of losing a degree of detail in our day-to-day planning. And it certainly took a little while to adopt a habit of talking in advance instead of text-planning on the go. In the end, what I most enjoyed was taking a moment during lunch breaks to hear her voice and simply drop her a spoken “love you.”
When using the Punkt. MP01, a certain layer of buzz was removed from my life – an immense, sudden relief. I almost felt disappointed when I switched back to my iPhone and was hit by a flood of notifications. As I went through them, I realized that I hadn’t missed out on anything.
In summary, I am sure that switching back to the MP01 at least once a month will help me focus better, enjoy the quiet moments more and remain more closely in touch with myself and my surroundings.
Having music on the go is great. But the paper rectangle still travels with me and sometimes, as I feel the memo book in my coat pocket, I put down my smartphone and focus on what’s real.