Phone-Free New Year’s Eve

by | Productivity

Bagby Anti Phubbing Holder

Last year I started following Bagby, a company that describes itself as digital wellness with a human soul. The founder, Juan Sanchez, has two degrees in digital and social media marketing. He decided to stop becoming part of the distraction while at the same time, take his relationship with his wife to the next level. Bagby encourages people to put down their phones to not just reduce screen time but increase HUMAN time.

Do you know what Phubbing is?

I bet you've phubbed someone.
Or someone phubbed you.
My friend, who is a recruiter, even said she was phubbed in an interview!

Phubbing – Phone snubbing. When people look at their phone and snub the person right in front of them.

Phubbing drives me crazy. Even the sight of a phone on the table makes me anxious. My husband, who is 50, notices that the majority of his millennial friends always have their phones on the table, face-up, glancing at them as notifications appear (yes, I know people who are not millennials do this too, but the majority of his friends of that age do it without exception). He puts his on the table sometimes, face-down, because it's uncomfortable in his pocket. I have a dear friend who always has her phone out in case the school calls, but then I noticed one day that when her entire family was with us, she was the only one who had her phone on the table. I don't blame her. The dopamine drip is strong.

To me, it feels like they are saying “I'm here at this table with you, but something may important may happen on this device and I can't miss it. Not even for 30 minutes.”

Learned behavior.
Is it an addiction or an impulse?

Several studies report phubbing leads to negative feelings, lack of connection, an increase in anxiety, a decrease in marital satisfaction, and more. It also threatens our four fundamental needs of belonging, self-esteem, meaningful existence, and control. 

It's such a distraction that it sucks the enjoyment out of an event, even when it's not directed at me personally. This is why I think every concert venue, comedy club, movie theater, and school should invest in Yondr

I bought a few anti-phubbing bands from Bagby to see if I wanted to invest in them as marketing materials and decided to throw a couple of Bagby Social-Mindful Phone and Tablet holders into my cart.  

My husband, who pretty much has a tablet or phone with him at all times, agreed to my experiment and put one up beside our front door on New Year's Eve. We had two other couples coming to join us for a raucous game of who could be the most horrible person at Cards Against Humanity.

Bagby Sleeve
Bagby Social-Mindful Phone and Tablet Holder

What happened as they arrived was very interesting. We asked our guests to put their phones in the holder, and the first couple, Sara and Billy, did it right away. When the next couple arrived, TB put both of her phones in the holder. Her spouse wanted to keep his in his pocket. I told him it was not an option, and the peer pressure forced him to get rid of it.

As the night progressed, he joked a few times, “if we had our phones, we could look it up.” And he's right! There were several times that we would have asked Siri or searched for a video, photo, or something else, but we didn't. 

Guess what happened? 

At the end of the night, none of us could remember what we even wanted to look up to begin with. That funny video we were going to share or the news story we had to read didn't even matter. 

Sara and Bill
Sara and Billy

When I asked one of the couples the next morning how they felt about it, they said it was a little weird at first, but then they liked it. They paid more attention to the people in the room and weren't distracted. Upon further reflection, ten days later, Billy Alspaugh sent me this message.

Looking back on the evening, I was surprised, and in hindsight, appalled, at my initial reptilian, base response to not want to give up my phone. It set off bells and whistles that don't conjure up rainbows and unicorns.

I quickly reminded myself that I'm trying to embrace “outside my comfort zone” and mentally moved this situation into that column.

I found that I was unnerved and slightly discombobulated the first few times I was unsure about something and instinctually began to reach for my “googler”. That began to go away after false start #2.

It was interesting to me how big a deal being device-free was. In reality, we just went a few hours without them. We most likely could/would have passed the same amount of time without anyone going “to the pocket” without drawing any attention.

I thought that the joint “team effort” brought a sense of unity to the proceedings that wouldn't have existed with devices on hand. For example, working together to remember band names, song titles, year of album release, etc. that otherwise would have been searched for.

To that same end, I know I felt a sense of resolve and found joy in being able to remember/find things mentally that I, by default, would have just farmed out to the interweb. Strangely I felt like a kid again, way back before pocket supercomputing, when going to grab an encyclopedia was too much hassle. It was somewhere near this realization, probably early to mid-game, that I couldn't have cared less about my phone anymore.

I must admit that the amount of time I have spent since New Year's Eve thinking about my relationship with my device has been somewhat shocking to me. My wife Sara has been practicing removing her device from her space, both in work and sleep. I never really understood what her aim was until New Year's Eve. 

I am making an effort to be more cognizant of how dependent I am to my device daily and to remove it whenever possible. Small things like turning it off vs. making it silent when I need total focus on a task truly makes a difference. I have quite a ways to go, but for now, I'm taking baby steps.

My husband loved the experiment so much that he wanted to keep the phone holder on the wall and start a new habit of Phone-Free Fridays for 2020! Usually, I'm the one who wants to do something like that, so I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled that this was his idea. It's since moved to Phone Free Weekend Nights starting at 6pm.

I'll be buying more of these phone holders this year for my clients who allow distracted meetings. Why have a meeting if people aren't going to be present?

We need more people like Juan, more companies like Bagby, and more willing participants to go back to human-to-human interaction. This is all a social experiment, and I think sooner rather than later, we will all be practicing more analog and digital minimalism to establish a connection.

Where and when can you see yourself using a phone holder? 
When can you commit to not phubbing?

Marcey Rader is a speaker, coach, and author of productivity and health behaviors who wants to rid the world of phubbing. Check out her latest book to lead you down a path of presence, at

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