Editorial

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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19 Comments

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I find it hilarious that lo jack created this challenge to encourage people to buy their service but when people do they the challenge some people realize their life is much better being "disconnected" furthering them from their phone and lo jack.

I would like to see the overall results.... so I can get a really big laugh outta this.

tytytucke said,
I find it hilarious that lo jack created this challenge to encourage people to buy their service but when people do they the challenge some people realize their life is much better being "disconnected" furthering them from their phone and lo jack.

I would like to see the overall results.... so I can get a really big laugh outta this.


There's a huge difference between going without a mobile device for a few days and having your personal information on your phone stolen...

So what your saying is people won't actually buy the service until they lose their phone? probably.

This challenge doesn't inform the consumer how your information can be stolen. It is more of just a reason to back up your information. With their slogan they are going after the social disconnect aspect and not identity theft.

The potential customers the challenge is suposta draw in pushes some further away. The average consumer this is targeting that actually try this challenge will have a reality check or buy or continue where they left off. The people who actually can't be socially disconnected probably won't even attempt the challenge in the first place (the people they want) The people that do the challenge I think they will distance them self's from their phone or continue on with out the service. (majority)

This is a scare tactic that should be aimed at the business class. The people that absolutely need their phone for work, Then again I could see many reasons why that would be a tougher sell in a smaller market (feasible/profit?). This is a non essential service and a tough sell.

"..."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."

Huh? I can and do all that from my home PC (with 20" screen and full keyboard to boot) which is easier (and faster) that sits on my desk where all I need to do is sit down. I can also make calls and text with my PC via Google Voice.

When home, I throw my phone on the coffee table and rarely "use" it. Smartphones can be useful when on the run which is why we call them "mobile" phones. The whole using a smartphone all the time for everything is just damn wrong. Always use the best tool for the job at hand!

$95 for service? Ouch... $30 T-Mobile plan here.

most people don't own or use a desktop for various reasons. It very understandable why someone wouldn't use a desktop when they are paying for a phone service that can do the same thing. or

school, work, and many other public places Free wifi + cheap messaging/phone service

Edited by tytytucke, Mar 23 2014, 5:16pm :

Anyone so addicted to their phone that they start to freak out after only 2 days needs help! :)

If it's your PRIMARY (only) phone, I could maybe understand it, but even then, theirs always the voice mail to catch it later.

I camp a lot, in secluded places. No phone there. Actually, I get out in the real world a lot and don't even bring phone with me. My main phone at home catches the calls. Going totally phone less, would be more of an issue.

Sure maps might be cool on the cell phone, but how often is the average person traveling in unknown areas?

A year ago I lost my phone and I spent around a week without any sort of contact (mobile phone or anything).
First days I was kinda annoyed, much like you when quit smoking. However from the second to third day (a total of 6 days) I was starting to pay more attention to my surroundings. Looking at the sky, people, instead of looking at the screen of my phone. It made a difference to the point where I started to actually feel "healthier" or something. More "integrated" and less of a "zombie". Eventually by the fifth day I was used to it and didn't bother me at all. I was more social, talked more to people around me and a lot less isolated. Nowadays I try to keep a balance, but there's always that impulse of checking for messages, browse the web and so on.
Was a nice experience, I wonder how mankind would go on if all technology just disappeared. I think it would be nice...
What I missed most was browsing the web (I'm a curious person and I do a lot of reading).

MidnightDevil said,
I wonder how mankind would go on if all technology just disappeared. I think it would be nice...

Watch the series "Revolution".

On a serious note I had a similar experience when my main pc was down a few years back and I was low on funds. I only had a feature phone so that was 3 months without internet. Went out and took walks a whole lot more. Its good to take a digital Sabbath ever so often.

Didn't miss my phone when I was in Barcelona last year with the boys, brought it out with me on the last night and it got stolen! lol Ah well, at least I learned from the experience.. it's liberating to not have to worry about internet or mobile for a couple of days imo, but that might be because it's my main job.

Someone on Verge tried a similar experiment of going internet free/gadget free for 1 year with similar results.

Technology is starting to own us.

Have you tried giving up your mobile device for a few days?

I did it for 2.5 years once. Might do it again, it's awesome not being contactable all the time.

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

I don't have a phone, period.