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Joy Week 2015: Challenge 3 - Put Down Your Phone

Happy Hump Day! You’ve made it to the halfway point of the week and I think that is cause for a celebration.

Today, I have a special challenge that goes against everything else Joy Week is standing for. The idea behind Joy Week is to share happiness and celebrate The Smile Project. In order to get the biggest possible spread, I have built a lot of Joy Week around social media. The idea behind today is to take down those barriers. I want it to be quiet.

At the beginning of this semester at my college, I had the opportunity to go up into the bell tower on campus with two of my friends. While up there, I found myself in a constant state of marveling. It was just before sunset on a late summer day and everything seemed perfect. I could see for miles all around and peer over the campus I had spent the past three years inhabiting. It was beautiful. And then I looked down. I saw my friends and classmates who I had spent the past three years building relationships with. At least 95% of the people I saw walking across the quad that evening had their head buried in a phone.

There I was, on the top of the bell tower taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells of the Universe and all I wanted was to shout at the top of my lungs and get them to hear me. I wanted them to look up. I wanted to show them that the world cannot be found in tiny pixels on a screen. I wanted them to know that the world was happening all around them. I wanted them to watch the sunset with me.

Today, I’m challenging you to put down your phone. Ideally, I would love to see today be a completely unplugged day. I would love to know that we as a society can revert back to old school communication and real life connection. I do understand though, that in the midst of a busy school or work week, asking you to tear away from important emails and group texts might be difficult.

So do what you can. Turn your phone off and go to lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Better yet, take a new friend to lunch. Introduce yourself to someone you’ve always wanted to befriend. Talk to someone new and get to know them without the defense of a phone on the table.

Keep your phones off the table. Better yet, take them out of your pocket and put them into your backpack where they can’t be reached. If you want to know the time, buy a watch. Keep your phone in your backpack or your purse and when you walk across campus or into town or around your neighborhood. Look up. See how the last tree is clinging to its leaves as though it could single-handedly stop winter from coming. Listen to the squirrels spiraling amongst the trunks, scurrying desperately for any last acorns to hoard. Smell the musk of autumn and the bonfires of foliage. Actually taste your hot chocolate. Pull in all the flavors and feel how the drink warms your soul from the inside out. Pick up a leave. Feel its brokenness slide through your fingers as fall slips away just as quickly.

The season is fading. Days are passing by and time is fleeting and whether you stop to notice it or not, I need you to at least hear this: Life cannot be found in a screen.

Put your phone away.

Look at your friends when they’re talking. Don’t just hear, but listen. Understand. Empathize. You are not a machine, conditioned to be bound to the system of texts and notifications and updates.

You are a human being with the ability to think for yourself and feel things deeply. Allow yourself to.

Today is Wednesday and while I understand that much of Joy Week is built around social media, today, I am asking you to unplug. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve been missing.

Love always,


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