I Stopped Texting People for a Week, and This Is What Happened

I can pinpoint the moment my attention span shrank. It was 2007, and I had just bought my first iPhone, one of the early bar soap–like models that I got secondhand from a friend. Fast-forward to 2016, and that little piece of technology is now at the center of everything I do. In fact, as I’m writing this story, my phone is lighting up with a barrage of little notifications, forcing my gaze to flit from screen to screen like that of a spectator at a tennis match. I’ll admit it—I’m addicted. Addicted to the ping of new text messages, the constant back-and-forth banter with friends, and the feeling of juggling a million things in one moment.

So, when my editor suggested I forgo sending text messages for a story, I’ll admit a mild wave of panic set in. This little device in the palm of my hand facilitates most of the conversations I have with friends, family, and co-workers. Would I be totally isolated without it?

The rules were simple: Any time I received a text message or felt like reaching out to a friend, I had to call instead—no instant messages in the office. No Facebook Chat group threads. As the days went on, I realized regaining focus was only one small byproduct of the text ban. The aspect that was truly transformative came later. Here’s how quitting text messages changed my stress levels, attention span, and, most surprisingly, my friendships.