Digitally Dark: The Experiment

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Absolute Software's LoJack Challenge, where the company asked me to go without my mobile device for two days as a simulation of having your phone stolen. I just completed going "digitally dark," and the results surprised me.

What's the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think they lost their phone? You're probably saying things like "email access," "Twitter feeds," and "Google Maps," because that's what I thought I'd miss most during the two days of my phone-less life. For me, however, that turned out to be wrong as the thing I missed most was also the most basic: the clock. I never realized how many times I pull my phone out of my pocket just to see what time it is. Having only a rough idea of the time turned out to be more stressful than not having access to my email.

This is what I missed the most...

Related to time, I found that I needed to use a different source for my alarm clock as I have become so used to using Gentle Alarm to wake me up in the morning. This was less annoying than not having access to the clock throughout the day, but was something I hadn't considered when taking on the LoJack Challenge.

So what about things that the phone was designed for, such as calls, SMS messages, email, and the like? In the beginning of the challenge I found myself drawn to grabbing my phone during downtimes just to see if anyone had sent me a message and I was surprised by how many times this happened. Not having the phone available didn't really impact my life at all and I never really felt "disconnected" from the world. Constantly checking the device is clearly a habit and being disconnected from an "always on" world was actually helpful. While eating lunch, for example, I did some people watching instead of web surfing, a nice change of pace.

There were also a few times that I wanted to look up some obscure trivia fact, but not enough that I wanted to open up my laptop to find the answer.

I think my wife was probably more annoyed by the LoJack Challenge than I was: Since we have no landline, I was literally off the grid and, aside from RFC 1149 (IP over Carrier Pigeon!), there was no way to get ahold of me. During the challenge, I actually questioned the need to spend $95 a month on my phone, something I never would've guessed would run through my head before I took the challenge. Using a lower-cost, lower-performing carrier like Virgin Mobile seems like it might be a decent option.

Now this challenge would've been a lot different if my phone had actually been stolen as opposed to put away for a couple of days. While I don't use my mobile device for banking or other sensitive activities, having email, Twitter, and Facebook always authenticated could open me and my friends up to malicious activity, so taking some time to think about how to protect your devices with some combination of encryption, tracking, and password protection is an important task to undertake.

Have you tried giving up your mobile device for a few days? If so, we'd love to hear your experiences!

Image of clock courtesy of apartmenttherapy.com; Image of stolen phone courtesy of Shutterstock

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