Living Life in Airplane Mode

For the last 2 years, I have been experimenting with disconnecting. This meant:

  • For about 1-2 years, I didn’t own a phone
  • After this period, I used phones (Xiaomi and iPhone) for around 6 months without a data/phone plan.

The basic notion was this:

By not owning a phone or a phone plan, can I live a more zen, focused, productive, and happy life?

My lessons thus far:

1. Phones without a data plan are very useful

Google maps works well without a data plan. Also, using an iPhone in airplane mode is a great tool (imagine a mini iPad that fits in your front pocket). I also consider the iPhone a great camera— probably the best in terms of ability to use a “full stack” photography solution.

But having a phone with a data plan — this might be a net negative. You end up checking your phone or mindlessly surfing the internet and social media when you technically don’t need to.

Thus the first lesson:

It seems the optimal solution is to own an iPhone without data/phone connection. Just use Google hangouts when you must make phone calls with WiFi (WiFi is ubiquitous nowadays).

2. Internet is good, but always being connected is bad

I’m quite convinced that always having internet connectivity is bad for your brain. Inability to focus, or let your mind wander. This also means bad for your creativity.

I propose this “barbell” connectivity notion. The basic idea is:

When you wanna use the Internet, use it intensely with a laptop or computer device. But if you desire to maximize your productivity, don’t get a data plan for your phone.

3. I can finally think again

The upside of all this:

I’ve been able to think more clearly, I’ve been able to wander and dream again, and I’ve been able to focus on people, conversations, and my work again.

Furthermore, I’ve become far more creatively productive — increasing my artistic output.


I might or might not get a phone plan in the near future. If so, maybe I can experiment getting a “dumb phone” with a phone plan if I want to make phone calls. Or perhaps I can try to program my iPhone with a data plan in a way which I usually keep in airplane mode. Or I can try to figure out how to optimally configure it to not be distracted by it.