What’s life like without a smartphone? I want to know.

This report is an updated version of a blog entry from October 2017.

We often read the saying “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

So, I’ll start now with myself. I’m splitting up with my smartphone. It’s important for me to mention that I’m not against technology and the digital age. But within the areas I am responsible for, I want some time back, without a smartphone. I made this decision for myself a long time ago. But last week, when my son came and said ‘Oh mummy, you’re looking at your phone again!’, that’s when it really became clear to me once more. Very slowly and almost as a matter of course, this thing had crept onto the playground, into the children’s room, onto the dining table, onto the sofa and into the bedroom: ‘Why not respond to a few new messages just before going to sleep, and first thing the next morning read the answers that come back?’

There are people who have very strong boundaries and are able to simply leave their smartphone at home. But I’m definitely not one of them. Hence this decision: I’m going to continue to be active on social media. Yes. And I’m going to continue to own a mobile phone. Yes. But one that doesn’t bewitch me into taking it with me everywhere, to places where there are plenty of other things to do.

This wonderful story of happiness and contentment comes to mind: A group of students asked their Zen master why he is so happy and content. The Zen master answered: ‘When I stand, I stand. When I walk, I walk. When I sit, I sit. When I eat, I eat. When I love, I love.’ ‘We do that too, master!’, the students replied. ‘But what do you do in addition to that?’ The master answered: ‘When I stand, I stand. When I walk, I walk, when I…’ Again the students said: ‘But we do that too, master!’ But he said to his students: ‘No – when you sit, you are already standing. When you stand, you are already walking. When you walk, you are already at your destination.’

This story is a perfect reflection of how it is for me with my smartphone. We do absolutely everything simultaneously. We listen to our children, cook at the same time, send text messages and take a quick look at Facebook etc. Multi-tasking can sometimes seem helpful. But it’s not a desirable state for the long term. I often miss doing one thing after another.

The new phone I bought in October can only make calls and send texts. Full stop – or as we say in German, Punkt. And for photography, one of my favourite activities, I’ve got a camera again. And so, when I make a phone call, I make a phone call. When I write, I write. And when I take photos, I take photos.

Previously, whenever I found myself in the most beautiful and magical locations, once I’d taken a photo on my phone I would find myself wanting to take a quick look at Facebook or update my mailbox. Or at least to immediately post the photo. And exactly that is what I no longer want.

When settling down on the sofa, together with whichever book I was reading, my phone would tag along too. Because I had first given my phone priority, my ‘sofa time’ would often be finished and I hadn’t read a single page. And this too I no longer want.

When my son wants to tell me something, show me something or do something in front of me for the first time, I want to be apart from my smartphone. No question. I want to return to simply doing, with full consciousness, whatever I’m currently doing.

So – I now have two new companions. A Punkt. mobile phone and an Olympus digital camera.

I began my digital detox at the end of October 2017, which means I have now lived for a good few months without a smartphone. AND – this detox has changed my behaviour in a lasting way. Although I have since reactivated my smartphone for work-related reasons, I’ve still got my MP01. When I’m out and about I often take it with me, because it simply liberates me. Liberates me from digital addiction, and because it gifts me a much more conscious existence.

The smartphone is much less valuable to me; yes, it’s still there, but often it’s just lying around. It rings, when something’s up. Furthermore, I’ve had a drastic clear-out of my apps, my mailbox is no longer set up, and have almost no links to social media on it. And that does good things. It’s helped me, and it makes me happy to know that I can still live without a smartphone.

During this time I’ve got heavily into reading again. Which is unbelievably valuable and enriching. And interestingly, things are going better work‑wise. I feel more focused, clearer and less dependent on this whole social media thing. Because real life takes place here. Right now. And Punkt. helps with that, too, with their wonderful, timeless and stylish products.

And I’ve found that Punkt.’s products give you something else. The ability to stand out. From the everyday and from the mainstream. Just the ‘cuckoo’ ring tone has often caused a few heads to turn; lots of people have asked me where I downloaded it. Well…

I recommend anyone try it. Have a digital clean-up. The digital world has many benefits for us, but only when we’re in charge. When we let ourselves be led astray, become seduced by these digital ‘helpers’, things get dangerous. Very dangerous. For then Michael Ende’s tale Momo, with its heartless, quietly invasive ‘Men in Grey’, will one day come true – something which to my mind is really not where we want to be headed.

A couple of minor criticisms of the MP01: it still relies on the old 2G network, and updating and importing contacts is slightly awkward.

I am grateful that there are companies like Punkt. Manufacturers that catch the zeitgeist. Not because there are people – myself also very much included – who stand up to technology, but because there are moments in time that I consciously want to make use of differently. And for these moments I do not need a smartphone watching over me. At these times I just want to be unreachable. Nothing more. Full stop. Or as we say in German, Punkt!

Sandra Elsig
Thun, Switzerland


Text & illustrations © Hearty Heroes

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