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Data Rebellion: Lessons from Life Without A Data Plan

This is a guest post by Muin Saiyed, a prolific writer and activist from Southern New Jersey. He has been apart of Islamic initiatives across the State and is also the Founder of NewGen Muslims, an initiative by the Islamic Center of South Jersey.

A month ago I had decided to turn off the data on my cell phone with a few small exceptions such as GPS and iPray. This included removing all social media accounts, messaging applications such as WhatsApp and GroupMe, and turning off Internet browsers such as Safari and Chrome.  This did not mean I could not use social media or the Internet. It only meant that I could not do so on my phone. If something was important enough to use the Internet for, then I needed to muster the energy to get to my laptop or a computer. Today marks one month and so I’d like to share my experience of “Data Rebellion”.

I made this decision not because Ramadan was coming, or because I have a problem with technology, or that I find something haram about it. Rather, I embrace technology. I’m an IT Professional, and would consider myself a certified geek. But I had begun to believe that being plugged into technology the entire day was hurting me in some way shape or form. I didn’t know exactly what negative benefit it was having on me, but I believed it did and so I wanted to see what practical difference it would make to my life if I turned everything off for a month.

I’d like to share my experiences and the differences I began to notice:

1. Additional Free Time

You would be surprised how much time we actually spend on our phones. You don’t truly realize until you turn it off. I would say on average I have now about 3 hours of free time additionally a day. Now I don’t believe I was on my phone for three hours, but other smaller things in combination led to this number. For example, I noticed that when I was doing something such as sitting in a meeting or working on something and then checked my phone, every time my train of thought changed it would take me additional time to get back on track. After the “Data Rebellion” I noticed that I was more focused on the task at hand and was able to finish up things much faster than usual.

2. The Existence of Boredom

I feel like for the past couple of years I had forgotten what it was like to truly feel bored at times. To be waiting in a line, and just waiting, doing nothing. You would think boredom is not something you would need, but I argue that boredom is absolutely necessary. It allows your mind to drift, to ponder upon the world. And when you are bored, when a task at work or at home comes along you feel ready to take it on instead of pushing it away because you want to busy yourself.

3. Emotional and Physical Attachment to my Phone

I began to realize that I had both a physical and I dare say almost an emotional attachment to my phone. The first few days I would unlock my phone, swipe through my screens and then lock my phone. I had no apps to use, but I was so addicted to just being on it, I would scroll through my screens for no reason at all. After a month of detachment, I am happy to say that I left my house a few times without my phone and I didn’t even realize until I got back.

4. Better Prayer

Have you ever prayed and gotten distracted because of a “ping” notification you hear on your phone? Or rushed your Salaah or Duaa because you felt your phone vibrate? It happened to me a lot, and I’m happy to say that now my phone is usually void of all notifications except a few messages and rarely a phone call. This small change has definitely left me with distraction free prayer.

5. More Human Interaction

I’ve taken to using my additional free time to call people and check up with them on a normal basis. This has led to lots of catching up with friends and family and also has led on a few occasions to us meeting up in person which otherwise may not have happened. I’ve noticed that I give my full attention to anyone I am speaking to at any time and almost never look down at my phone. I’ve also noticed how rude it is to be on your phone when someone is talking to you, because I now feel it from the other side.

6. Cutting back on other technology

There are many indirect effects that the additional amount of time has allotted for me, but one of the biggest visible changes is that I have now begun to spend a good amount of time on recreational activities. I now run almost every day, I read A LOT more (I was successfully able to read one book and half way through another), and I also am more consciously involved in helping out more at home.

After a month of change, I have decided to keep my data turned off. Many folks will argue that with good self-control you can have the best of both worlds. I have nothing against technology but limiting my data consumption by cutting it off made a big difference to my day-to-day life and I would urge everyone to at the very least, give it a try.

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Here are the rules for my Data Rebellion for those willing to attempt it:

  1. No Social Media Apps should exist on your phone. Delete them.
  2. No Messaging Apps besides basic texting should exist on your phone. Delete them.
  3. Turn off data/wifi for all apps on your phone that require data such as the browser
  4. iPhone: Settings >> Cellular >> Scroll Down and Turn Off
  5. GPS can stay on
  6. Any app which is critical for work purposes can stay on as long as you stay away except for work (For example I allowed Lync Messenger to stay on)
  7. You may freely use your phone for anything that does not require the Internet. Phone Calls, Texting, Camera, Notes, and Reminders
  8. You may for critical situations turn on data but must immediately turn it off once done the task

For example I needed to pull up my flight itinerary because I forgot to print it.

Give it a shot insha’Allah and I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I did! Ramadan Mubarak!

Comments 4

  1. israr sayed

    a very good article on social media, it life read on IT based technological device. 🙂
    at time even i feel tehnology is eating good amount of time and cutting s from direct human interaction. Remember without IT advancement RasulAllah’s (sallahu alaihi wasallam) message spread out in arab world withing 23 years, this is what we say in hindi Dil ki baat Dil sey – Heart Talk.

  2. Bareerah

    I really want to try this, but I canr imagine it being possible to survive without whatsapp when its the only way people communicate these days…or maybe its just the people around me :/

    The idea does seem incredibly useful though. Maybe I will try it with the exception of whatsapp.
    Do I have to delete YouTube? What about listening to lectures and quran and stuff. ..its a bit annoying to drag a laptop round the house?
    Maybe I will try a toned down version…or is that cheating?

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