If You Need Me in 2023, I’ll Be Living Life on ‘Do Not Disturb’

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

My plan is to be both incredibly unbothered and inconveniently hard to reach.

I decided this on a trip to Paris I took in the fall. Before I left the country, I was averaging at least seven hours a day staring at my phone, texting and doomscrolling. My mind was too busy. Even TikTok thought so: My For You page was riddled with videos telling me to get off the app, to take up crocheting or knitting or needlework, to try being still and maybe alone with my thoughts for two seconds.

My first few days abroad, I found myself mindlessly picking up my phone instead of eating as many croissants as I could. I’d get a text, attempt to respond with my spotty service, and then I was sucked in, opening Instagram or TikTok to see if my data had decided to resurrect itself from the time zone I left it behind in.

Then I had a breakthrough: I let my phone die while I was out and didn’t bother charging it until the next morning. And it felt … good? Turns out being “on” was annoying and preventing me from feeling like I was on vacation. I didn’t actually care about texting my friends back late or missing whatever was happening online. I cared about croissants. So I started sleeping with my phone in a separate room. In the morning, instead of my phone alarm followed by a doomscroll, I watched the light seep in through the window I’d just cracked and listen to the sounds of the street below. My mind felt still for the first time in a long time, and I could feel a smidge of a superiority complex starting to creep in (look at me! I don’t need my phone like the rest of you sheep!). Maybe the TikTok algorithm was right.

When I came back to New York City, I wanted to re-create that feeling — even if real life required me to be on my phone at least part of the time. I thought of my friends who consistently piss me off (love you!), the ones I text at 3 p.m. about something very important (secondhand clothing I want to buy or a negroni sbagliato with prosecco I want to drink) only to see that light-gray signifier at the bottom of my screen letting me know their notifications are silenced and their phone is on “Do Not Disturb.” Then I know I won’t hear back from them for at least three hours, by which point my anxiety spiral is over, the joke is stale, and the vintage mittens I’d been eyeing have been sold to a bidder who needed less purchase validation than I did.

Recently, a friend told me she even keeps her phone on Do Not Disturb all day, rotating through several variations: one for the morning, one during work hours, another after work, and finally for bedtime. Each setting is customized to allow some notifications in, like texts from her family, and others are an impenetrable wall of virtual serenity. “It’s so peaceful,” she told me. In truth, it sounds like bliss.

So now I have a setting for work, which allows in notifications from Slack and texts from two lucky people, and one for bedtime, which allows no one, giving me space to be alone with my thoughts and my thoughts only. Sometimes I forget my notifications have been silenced and even, sometimes, that my phone exists at all. My mind doesn’t race, in fact, it even feels clear, and I can breathe a little better. Thing is, I forget to turn them on half the time. And then there are the times I do remember but find myself picking up my phone nonetheless, checking my messages, worried that someone incredibly important — like Jennifer Coolidge or Cher — is trying to reach out to me.

I’m going to keep working on it. Maybe I’ll set disrupting alarms when I find myself going down a rabbit hole of niche TikTok conspiracies and it’s time to check back into reality — or at least when it’s time to blink post-scroll. Either way, no matter what it takes, if you text me in the New Year, don’t expect me to respond for at least three to five business hours. I’m going to be busy ignoring each and every single one of you <3.

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If You Need Me in 2023, I’ll Be on ‘Do Not Disturb’