The iPhone Cleanse

Let it be known that a juice cleanse may still be easier.


It always boils back down to Paris.

Last Fashion Week, I was seated at Café de Flore in St. Germain de Pres while I embarked on a solitary game of Guess Which Tables House Americans. As is always the case when the contingency of Americans in Paris outweighs that of the Parisians in Paris, Flore becomes the centriole that shelters the misplaced. This particular round was almost too easy to plausibly call a game (which infers challenge) because there was one salient indication that demarcated the Americans from the French: the former — all of them — had their phones out. The latter did not.

The distinction should have seemed innocuous, but the moment I looked down to my right and saw my phone, lit up, sitting next to a side order of haricot verts, I felt ashamed. Here I was, dining among hundreds, in Paris, and I still needed the safety portal that keeps me perennially connected at a short arm’s length.

When I got back to New York I conducted a marginal social experiment. For one week, between the hours of 6PM and bedtime — I would abandon my cell phone.

On Monday night I was supposed to meet my friend Jessica for dinner at 6:30. I got there to the restaurant at 6:25, waited for her until 7:15, then ate alone and left. When I got home at 8PM, I had a text message postmarked 6:15 that read, “Not sure I can make it! Can we push to 9?”

This was infuriating not because I had to eat alone (that part was delightful — I was forced to entertain myself using only a glass of wine and my own mind) but because in the age of constant communication, the sanctity and art of a platonic date is lost. You don’t have plans anymore until they’re seated across from you, communicating putatively face to screen.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights I went home straight from work which left me with approximately four recreational hours to talk to my roommate, who also happens to be the man I one time solemnly swore to have sex with exclusively for the rest of my life. The exercise reminded me how boring he truly is and that was awkward. (Lol, JK.)

Interestingly, I was not picking my eyebrows as frequently — purportedly because I was not focusing razor sharp on the tiny little screen impairing my vision with each squint that obliterated the skin on my nose.

And any time I spent in the public domain between Monday and Friday was time ripe with opportunity to trip the plethora of face-down passersby, focused so intently on the small devices they held, if, as the aphorism suggests, the cows were to come home, they’d have no damn clue. I knew that just a week earlier, I had been one of them and immediately understood exactly why my dad hates walking around with me.

On Thursday, I met a work acquaintance-cum-friend for a drink. The deal was similar to Monday’s in that we’d set a time to meet (7PM) and when I left my office at 6:45, I didn’t take my phone. She was there when I arrived and we co-drank a bottle of red wine which is an important detail to share, because just around the glass that would conclusively polish the bottle off — maybe this was an omniscient revelation, maybe it was the Malbec — I decisively recognized what the warnings always mandate: that my interdependence had heretofore impaired my ability to thoughtfully socialize.

Prior to the cleanse of sorts, I’d earnestly begun believing that I was either spending time with people who are not interesting at all (encouraged by an ardent and enduring desire to check my phone) or that I, myself, was losing the social curt and savvy that matters (turns out answering a text message with impressive immediacy is not as impressive as maintaining engagement — real engagement — in the conversation looking at you).

Without wondering whether anyone was e-mailing, or texting, or calling, or @-ing me, I had nothing to do but be where I was. Which is exactly where I’d like to remain.

Of course, the moment the exercise ended, my phone and I were more or less married again. That hasn’t since changed but the good news is, I’m headed back to Paris later this month.

Pictured iPhone cases available here.

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  • CDJ

    my best friend just lost her phone in a cab and didn’t get a new one for ELEVEN DAYS. i had anxiety for her.

  • I love this post so much. I’m a little bit “old school” I guess you could say, whenever I’m out with someone for dinner/drinks etc. I don’t take my phone out of my bag. I find that to be the polite thing to do and also it gives me a chance to completely focus on my time with them!

  • Morgan

    Awesome experiment! I need to try it. In fact, if it can make me stop picking every single innocent hair off my eyebrows due to stress, then I can’t afford not to try it.

  • monkeyshines
  • Penny Lane

    I feel extremely contradicting on this subject. On the one hand I completely agree that we spend too much time attached to our iPhones; but can we not argue that technology is the direction the future has taken?

  • This just made me realize how old the school is that describes me … like: ancient.
    -> It’s not only that I’d never leave my phone on when meeting someone, I’d also never go out with them if they left theirs on or fiddled with it or stuff … 🙂 But I’d skip the future meetings without resentment – I don’t think myself to be that important, it’s just that I hate boring encounters, too.

    • Ai-Ch’ng GB

      I only just got rid of the very same phone pictured here, two years ago… because it finally gave out (after – what – twenty lifetimes, in the timeline of iPhones?) and all my family were going crazy because they were unable to watsapp me. I was “Watspp? What’s that?” right up until last year. Ignorance IS bliss!

      • 🙂 (to be honest, I am only semi-ignorant: when in need of a smart phone, I use my husband’s Galaxy. While this still makes me a person who has no idea what a watsapp is or does, I can at least surf the internet in the car (yay for Finland) and book a room in advance and stuff (check my blog when on vacation)…

  • Deanie

    Lol! I love this post so much! So many of us are guilty of being too glued to our phones. They are great for so many things in so many ways, but they have caused us in many ways to not be present and focused on who we are with. I’ve tried several times to take a social media free weekend, have even deleted the apps from my phone on Friday with the intention of not putting them back on my phone until Monday. The first time I did this I found myself downloading the apps back on several times throughout the weekend…so awful! It has gotten easier. And when I keep my phone on the charger in another room with the ringer off for hours I actually enjoy that time and don’t miss my phone one bit. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Sarah Shelton

    I’m reading this on my iPhone, in bed. The irony.

  • steelandheels

    It’s as if you wrote this post for me. My mom, dad and I recently visited Paris — Flore no less — and remarked the exact same thing about Americans on their phones. We also remarked the speed and anxiety with which the Americans constantly check their cell phones. As if to say, “Look, individual sitting across from me in the most glorious place in the universe, sitting at a storied Cafe… you are not as important as this alert for an e-mail, Facebook notification (gasp) or tweet.” I mean, really? Very well-written and thoughtfully positioned. I always remind myself of Paris (who doesn’t anyway?) when I am too engrossed in technology.

  • Leigha

    Love the red iphone case! Anyone know where to buy it?

  • Maureen Krezel French

    will you be taking your phone?

  • Aleks

    This is wonderful, and a great (&hilarious) reminder that unplugging is sometimes the way to go.

  • Leigha

    Where is the red and the black and gold iphone case from? please help!

    • Leandra Medine

      They are by Giovanna Battaglia

  • I decided to not to have an iPhone, because I’m already spending too much time on my laptop, and I find this very liberating. Plus I can’t stand it when I’m spending time with people who are constantly stuck to their iPhone.

    Mafalda ❤

  • Angela

    Great read!! We are all SO attached to our phones (myself included) it would be great to let them go a bit.

  • Reggiee Larios

    Great post to stumble upon. I just got to class and realized I left my phone in my car. I’ve been silently freaking out ( even though I’m not even going to use my phone in the two hours)

  • be

    I’ve lived in Paris for a year, and I could tell you exactly who was from the USA and who wasn’t in one second or less, it was quite quite obvious.

    I don’t have an iphone, and I would very much like not to have a phone at all besides the one at my place, I can’t do that because of work, but that would be lovely. When I’m not working I usually forget about my phone, or I don’t charge it (for which my mother tends to think I’m dead in an alley two to four times a week, poor woman).

    I’m from Argentina, and while here there are not all the phones on the tables, and the face-to-face time with friends and family is quite relevant to us, I do see that quickly the phones are more and more out and about, and it’s kind of sad for me. I understand the need, I don’t share it, but I can understand it, but it’s kind of awful.

    • be

      Oh, and for all of that: kudos for trying to disconnect from your device!!

  • I love this idea. I try so hard not to be on my phone 24/7 but it is so hard when all your friends are still on theirs and when people are trying to get ahold of you.


  • Emily

    I heard this recently- “A guy walks into a bar and something hilarious happens, but nobody notices because they’re all on their phones.” Ha.

    Pulling out my iPhone and mindlessly scrolling through it has become habitual. When I’m out, I have to remind myself to keep it out of sight so that I can be present and aware- so that I’m not robbing myself of the opportunity to be inspired by something I hear or see. I suppose moderation is the key- and knowing when it is and isn’t appropriate to be on your phone.

    The Offline Glass is a neat invention- it’s basically a beer glass designed to keep you off your phone and will spill over if your phone isn’t supporting the bottom. Check it out:

    Thanks for the post, Leandra!

  • Adrianna Grężak

    Boyfriend: “I don’t know how people got around New York City without smartphones.”
    Me: “I did for four years. I literally printed out Hopstop directions and a map.”

    I didn’t get my first smartphone until I graduated college. My mom offered to get me a blackberry, which I turned down, and I never set up my laptop wireless to work at NYU. (I didn’t need more distractions while studying/writing papers.) I didn’t understand why people showed up to class just to text/web surf on their laptops and phones. I realized there was already a tech difference between myself as a senior and the freshmen. I think back to when I was trying to talk to my Printmaking Class (freshmen) friend in the studio, but he was chatting to somebody on Facebook instead.

    That said, I love Google Maps and Instagram.

  • Stephanie

    So interesting Leandra! That must have been especially tough since your work is so dependent on engaging and communicating via all the different social mediums.

    I recently celebrated a birthday and found it interesting that my only friend who doesn’t have Instagram/Facebook/Twitter etc. was also one of the only people who did something besides a text on the actual day. She had an edible arrangement sent to my office, and when most of my friends texted me, she actually called and sang me happy birthday. She also lives across the country from me and could have easily used the excuse of a time difference or just written on my wall or texted or gchatted like we constantly do throughout the day. But she knows how important it is do something real, other than a cop-out “HBD!!!” posted on your wall.

    Social media and the instant communication that we are afforded has made so many people lazy and noncommittal (like your friend who changed the plans last minute)! Sure, last minute things are bound to come up. But when you can send a text so easily to bail, you’re right, you can’t count on the plans until the person is sitting in front of you.

  • Aubrey Green

    Bring your phone, but don’t bring it out at dinner/drinks with someone/people you are with, especially if it’s just one person. It’s extremely inconsiderate – I didn’t take time out of my day, or to not sleep/go to bed early to come sit at a restaurant/bar and pay money to watch you text other people!

    This is coming from someone who is obsessed with instagram and can’t actually leave my phone at home.

    Look at your emails/instagram/etc on your OWN time, don’t waste mine.

    This reminds me of that Sex and the City episode for Carrie’s birthday and she doesn’t have a cell phone, so she leaves to go to the restaurant to meet everyone, only no one is there, she gets back home with tons of messages from everyone telling her they’re going to be late…

    Maybe it’s more of a lesson of being somewhere you said you’d be at the time you said you would be there?

  • Roy

    Great article!

  • bitchcorner

    We love this. We’ve touched on phone etiquette (here and it’s easily one of our biggest pet peeves.

    Great idea to do a phone cleanse, hopefully it will catch on.

  • madeleine

    You should totally write something about Cathy Horyn’s recent decision to depart The New York Times. Remembering a true fashion legend and why every designer would rather be infected with the plague, than to have her review a show. I call her; The woman who used her freedom of speech to become the Robin Hood of Fashion. Total cheese, I know. But she’s a legend!

    See more now on:

  • Josie Kim

    Oh my goodness. This happened to me just last night! I graduated a semester earlier than I was supposed to so most of my friends are still in school. Because one of my friends and I haven’t talked in a while, she suggested a day and time for us to talk online. However, I waited 20 minutes past the appointed time and she still wasn’t there, so I just went to sleep. The next day I retrieved my phone that I left in another room and saw that I had missed calls and a text saying that she was running late. Good reminder for me to actually keep my promises and appointments.

    Great post, Leandra!

  • Molly

    This is a great post and I feel exactly the same. Ever since I got a smart phone and stupidly signed up to every social networking site possible, my life has changed and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or text messaging. I miss the days when I’d actually meet up with people or call their home phones for a catch up. X

  • Malbec is my favorite wine. Actually, it is pretty much the only wine I drink. So good.

  • Dandy,

    And now you can trick them into be french! because you can remain phone-less at dinner! Perfect!

  • Camps

    I think le raison que French people don’t leave leave their iPhones out while dining is because of the likelihood of walk-by thievings. This happened to me last year on a Sunday afternoon at Au General Lafayette when a band of Gypsy girls wandered over, distracted me, and grabbed it from the table. The proprietress came out to shoo them away at the moment I realized the phone had been snatched, and she and I ran off down the street to catch them while the other diners cheered us on. A block away, she finger-wagged the girl into handing the phone back, then returned it to me, triumphantly. I’m happy to have provided a bit of drama, but there was more than a tinge of, “oh, that silly American girl,” that pervaded the rest of the afternoon’s chatter. Anyway, more than one reason to keep your phone out of sight, ladies.

  • S

    I have pretty strong feelings on this one.
    Deal breakers:
    Checking phone at the table. Coffe, lunch, whatever…awful.
    Checking phone mid conversation just because it beeped. Leave it.
    Talking to people while keeping your eyes fixed on the phone screen. Look the hell up!

  • myblissisthisway

    It’s a good little experiment, I feel like a lot of people do little cleanses like you did with their phone or Facebook. I should definitely try it one day!

  • Rebecca

    It’s so different for men too; why is that? My boyfriend lost his phone in a cab too, but he didn’t try as hard as I would’ve as he came back from running down the block with his shoulders shrugged. He’s finally getting a phone and it’s been 8 days. If it weren’t for Facebook chat, I don’t know what state of mind I’d be in right now!

  • Sarka

    I work in journalism, so I spend enough time online. I really don’t find the need to spend my leisure time on my phone. I never pull it out for meals, gatherings with friends, outdoor activities and social things. I live in London, I pay attention to my surroundings, i don’t stare into my phone when walking, so I know my city and I rarely get lost. The best conversations are when the phones are off the table. The most boring ones are when everyone is idly flicking their eyes to their phones or Googling facts to “add” to the conversation. As if using one’s brain is too much effort. People in North America are glued to their phones way more than Europeans.

  • Meredith

    It’s refreshing to hear another millennial talk about the overuse of technology! (While admitting to an iPhone addiction) I completely agree.

  • marlin