Stress,  Technology

My 4-Day Frustrating Forced Phone Fast: What I Learned in the Silence of Being Unplugged

Day: Saturday morning

Location: Apple store

Issue: Stripes on screen

I stood on the curb at the quaint mall, 20 minutes before they opened, fifth in line. I hid my irritation around the nearby strangers, but inside I felt my nerves starting to get on each other.

It’s fine. I’m sure it’ll be fine. It’s just stripes. A few stripes are fine. It’ll be fine, right? Oh my gosh—what if it’s not fine?

“Hi. How can I help you?”

I turned my phone in the man’s direction. “I have an issue.”

“Ohhh, yes.” He tried to hide his best-guess diagnosis, but I knew he knew. My issue consisted of irregular vertical lines, some skinny, some fat, glitching like a disco party, solely on the left side of my screen.

“Okay… we’ve got you in the system. Should be about 45 minutes.”

When the Genius Bar employee retrieved me, I still had hope.

Done Damage

“Hi, I’m Holly.”

Older and calm, she spoke with authority. Not pushy or arrogant—just knowledgeable.

“Hi Holly, I’m Irritated. Nice to meet you.”

(Just kidding—I didn’t say that.)

She looked at my screen, put a magnifying glass over the tiny microphone hole, and gave me the news.

“Looks like water damage.”

Surprised, I gently argued. “But I’ve never spilled water on it or dropped it in water. Ever.”

She smiled and added her best empathy. “Yeah, sometimes if you have it in your pocket when you’re working out….”

How did she know?!

Hope faded, exasperation took over, and shame slapped me in the back of the head.

This wouldn’t have happened if you had taken better care of your phone. 

I argued back in my own mind. 

Yeah, and if I had stopped my husband from buying it on eBay then I’d have insurance and could easily get a replacement sans hassle. But we’re not there now, are we?

Lovely Holly laid out my options and I nodded in agreement, mortified to be dropping so many hundreds of unplanned dollars on a random Saturday morning. 

She helped, but my emotions vacillated between disappointment and aggravation, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or hit something.

So I thanked her and walked out.

Regrets & What-Ifs

Sometimes trying to save money backfires. I’m frugal by nature, which has saved me a boatload of pesos over the years. Sometimes you get what you pay for though. An iPhone from eBay worked great years ago, but not this time.

When I felt a bit anxious about living without a phone, my not-helpful brain kicked into high gear and took me for a ride on the “what-if” train:

Saturday – Running errands without a phone

  • What if my car breaks down as I’m jetting around town? 
  • What if my family needs me and they have no idea where I am?
  • What if I need to take a picture of something incredible?
  • What if my car breaks down on the way back?

Sunday – Going to church without a phone 

  • What if my car breaks down on the way there?
  • What if I forget my Bible and need my Bible app?
  • What if my car breaks down on the way back?

Monday & Tuesday – Going to work without a phone 

  • What if my car breaks down on the way there? 
  • What if my family needs me and they can’t remember the name of my school to call the office? 
  • What if my sister calls and thinks I’m ignoring her?
  • What if my friend texts and thinks I’m ignoring her?
  • What if I really want to listen to a podcast or audiobook?
  • What if my car breaks down on the way back?

Wednesday – New phone arrived

  • I never broke down.
  • My family didn’t need me. 
  • I didn’t miss any incredible photo ops.
  • Nobody died.

Are these things you ever thought about in the 80s? Me neither! We just jumped in our cars and drove to wherever, never giving thought to all the what-ifs.

Photo by Skylar Michael on Unsplash

Silent Lessons

Why is it that sometimes most times it takes a disaster or an emergency to make me change my ways? I despise this about my human nature. 

How hard would it be to turn my phone off and drive in silence every day? But noooo… I have to listen to something and learn or be entertained while I’m driving to work? All in the name of multitasking and productivity?


How hard would it be to leave my phone at home on Sundays and actually go back to carrying a Bible? Not hard at all, especially because all my people would have their phones. And if we ever had an emergency, the hundreds of people around me would have theirs as well!

At the end of my four-day forced phone fast, I felt pretty decent about how I handled the inconveniences. At the same time, I truly shocked myself at how many times I went to reach for it, forgetting I was in cell phone time out.

Kinda like when the power goes out and I keep flipping light switches on every time I walk into a new room. How can my short-term memory be that pathetic?

One thing I learned…

Surviving without a cell phone is possible. And inconvenient. But possible. 

Those four days felt like a little gift of time. A little gift of silence in the car. A little gift of brain space. 

I’ve considered turning my phone off on Sundays, but so far I’ve found my willpower to be weak and highly distractible. How can one glass rectangle hold that much power over me? Ugh.

Have you ever taken a phone fast on purpose? Tell me about it in the comments! You could be the one to inspire the rest of us!

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  • Neena Smay

    One of my kids dropped his scooter on my phone and it shattered the glass and left a large streak from the top to the bottom of the screen. Getting a new phone wasn’t in the budget and my phone still worked I just couldn’t watch any shows or scroll on Facebook. Turns out it was the best thing to ever happen to me. Actually I tell people the Lord broke my phone and I grew so much spiritually in that time. I read more books and studied Gods word more. Who knew the phone was such a distraction. Now that I have a new phone I find myself turning the phone off more often just because it vies for my attention. I would encourage you to turn it off on sundays. It’s a break for your brain!! Love you friend. Thanks for writing about things that matter.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh my glory, Neena… dropping a scooter on a phone is pretty rare! Good job adjusting and having a whole new perspective. And thanks for the challenge to turn my phone off on Sundays. I’ve gotten into a routine of uploading my pictures from my phone to Dropbox on Sundays ’cause I can let it work while I read. 🙂 But I could definitely adjust to a different day.

      “Writing about things that matter.” I love that phrase. Thanks for the reminder to be intentional about where I choose to turn my efforts. Happy Thanksgiving, amiga!

  • Gilbert Mellis

    So true as usual Carrie. I can’t remember how many times I have left my phone at home and feel lost without it and somehow I always survive. I also agree with you get what you pay for. Sue & I have a story we call our “couch story” that we use to convince ourselves NOT to save money necessarily but to get better quality. In the early 80’s we bought a couch set that was about $500. For an extra $100 we could have the cushions sitting on wood slats instead of canvas slings. We saved the $100. However, over the years the canvas stretched and cushions started sagging in between the canvas. As they sagged, so did we. Now, whenever we are debating on whether to pay a higher price for something, we turn to each other and ask if we want to risk another “couch story”. It cost us back then, but the lesson has probably saved a LOT subsequent to that.

    • Carrie Talbott

      “As they sagged, so did we.” Ha! 🙂 Thanks for the great story, Gil. Such a good lesson to remember. It takes a while to learn all the things in this world that give you what you pay for. I’ll still cut corners on quite a few things that don’t matter, but the big stuff definitely matters! Like cutting meat on a flimsy paper plate that’s subsequently leaking? Not ok, not happening.

  • Amber

    Did you ever not have a phone number or address that you needed from your contacts? That seems like it would be the most challenging.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thankfully we have most of that in our Contacts on our computers. And my people still had their phones, so it wasn’t totally like the dark ages. But when I was out and about it was definitely more challenging. Didn’t die though. Haha.

  • Marti

    Another great, thought-provoking blog, Carrie. Thank you for addressing my addiction to my screen. I’ll try to do better.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Well, thank you, Miss Marti. 🙂 We all seem to have the same addiction, don’t we? I’ll try to do better too, but the words of Yoda creep in every time I say I’m going to “try.” Haha.

  • Jen Palo

    I love how you tell a story, Carrie, and all the inner working of your mind with it! This is really good. I’ve done a phone fast on vacation and on some weekends and holidays. It’s good to be untethered. I liked the image about the phone being on a cord and thus people were free.

    • Carrie Talbott

      You’re very kind, Jen. The inner workings of my mind can be a scary place. Haha. Good job doing phone fasts on purpose! Yes, that quote and pic are quite eye-opening.

  • Eileen Brown

    We did a cruise, and had no WIFI for a week. After a few days of constantly trying to pick up my phone to check for texts, emails, etc, I finally stopped the habit, and than just left it in my room. It became refreshingly odd to not vibe addicted to seeing the messages and I realized how addicted I was to the phone. I still have that problem unplugging at night. But, every now and than….I sometimes will leave my phone home to add a little excitement to my errands. And silence. It’s a nice change to not be able to be found.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Ooo… no wifi for a week kind of sounds nice. One thing that helped me unplug a little at night was reading about how much screens can mess with your circadian rhythms. And I’m selfish about my sleep! Your last three sentences made me laugh. Ha! Thanks for chiming in, Eileen!

  • Brenda “Gidget”

    I’ve not been forced to do a phone fast, but we’ve had times where the internet was down for an extended period of time. Kids groaned and moaned, while internally I shrugged my shoulders and realized I wouldn’t get the stuff I needed finished on my laptop. We’re frugal when it comes to our phones and service, too, so I couldn’t make a hotspot. (AND, the extra cost of the service for a free phone is designed that way as you’ll pay for your phone plus some, hence why they make out and offer such. Don’t feel guilty about not having the insurance. I’m sure what the cost was was cheaper all the way around.) We did have some good talks and the boys actually made up a game where they ran around (high schoolers) and played together to pass the time. Like the 80’s. So, yeah. Make the best of it and value those moments as gems! Funny, I think the same thing too…”what if I break down?” Lol. Great post!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Same! 🙂 Especially when we lived in Baja. I love how your boys made up a game. Every time my kids whined about no technology or electricity they always seemed to get super creative. Sometimes I long for the simplicity of the 80s! Thanks for reading, Brenda.