Can’t Call, I’m in Cuba.

favorites, messy thoughts

Emma is the editor & creator (and occasionally writer) for The Messy Heads. She enjoys yellow curry, print media, and singing to herself.

A new study came out suggesting that the average American checks their phone about…. *drum roll please*
300 times a day.

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I recently admitted to myself that I was addicted to my phone, and this number seemed shocking to me. 300 times, that’s 300 other things you could be doing in the day. More pages in books to read, laughs to have, connections to make. It all seems like such a waste, because really when you lock your phone at the end of the day, what information can you remember storing and soaking up? Was it worth it? For me it really never is.
I heard this 300-times-a-day fact over the radio in the car, and I zoomed past mountains dried up from the sun. I thought about how insanely bright blue the sky was, and how I wanted to grab an iced coffee, and lost in thought reached for my phone. I was texting someone, making plans for a rendezvous later. Even though messages were sending back and forth over maybe three minutes, I had to check during the in-between minutes to make sure I didn’t miss a message. I could just wait for the ding, or I could just call.


Earlier this year I went to Havana. A little bit of a quarter life crisis moment for sure, in the wake of my lease being up and a relationship being up too, my first instinct when shit hits the fan is to just roll with it, so I booked a ticket to Cuba.

Without internet, I found myself writing and reading a lot more. I tore through three Hemingway books in the first week, lounging lazily in a living room chair while black beans soaked in the closet-sized kitchen. A rum and coke in one hand and a dog-eared, marked up book in the other. I also made up janky songs on a guitar in the casa renta that only had five strings (one of which was impossible to keep in tune). And in my two weeks in Cuba I had filled up two journals, written all of my pieces for the mag, and read about five books. And also managed to go dancing every night and to the beach every day. It seemed like I had literally too much time on my hands, to do lists being checked off before breakfast.

Once I landed in Miami for the connecting flight back home, I reconnected to the world and got a flood of messages, ding, ding, dinging on my screen. Voicemails. Emails. Updates. Notifications. Memes from friends, concerns from my family, CNN telling me about Trump’s new tirades and attack on Planned Parenthood. It felt like a thousand voices were swirling around me, and I had to get up and pace up and down the terminal, hands shaking from anxiety.

When my mom picked me up at the airport I told her straight away I was going to get a flip phone, which sounded like a ludicrous idea to her, and maybe it is. Maybe it is pretentious and privileged to want to downgrade to something simpler, but having a computer in the palm of your hand was seriously weirding me out.


Coming back from Cuba made me aware of a few things: how much anxiety I build around my phone, how phone addiction is regarded as completely NORMAL, and how despite what everyone around you is doing and saying, it’s okay to put it away.


I realized that the anxiety I felt when I first touched down from being disconnected for a couple of weeks was anxiety that I had normalized and actually felt every single day. I am notorious for keeping messages banked up in my inbox because something in my head tells me that this person is going to be mad at me, say something negative, say something that I will have to confront and face and might ruin my day. So when I finally muster up the courage to open up the message, it’s three days later, and all it said was “miss you, let’s get coffee.”

I’m trying, and actually getting better, at replying more immediately. It sounds silly but I will breathe out before I open a message or email and tell myself silently that I can handle it. Or substituting phone calls for texts helps me heaps, because a bad tone of a text can keep me at bay while calling someone will make me realize that they are in a perfectly fine mood and not mad at me at all, despite what my anxiety is telling me.

So overall… my new guidelines for communicating via my cel are…

-Calls over texts whenever possible
-Open a text as soon as I see that I have received it and read it, even if I don’t feel up for replying right away. This way it’s not hanging over my head and making me unnecessarily nervous


When I got back I noticed how normal it is to have your cel practically attached to the palm of your hand. I was baffled that as I wandered though the streets, people were wandering too, but their eyes were on a screen instead of on the scenery around them. On the bus it was the same, and at stop lights even. Of course it had always been like this, and I was probably a part of that. But really, think about what your day is with your phone and how much your use it…

Waking up and pressing your home button first thing, falling asleep to the glow of a scrolling and scrolling screen. How often do we get lost for hours mindlessly watching slime videos or tagging friends in memes? It becomes a time filler, an attention holder. Glancing at it with the excuse of wanting to know the time when there is a lull during in-person conversation. Or reaching for it when you have just two people in line in front of you at the grocery store or out to coffee. Even worse— at a stop light. And then you start to feel vibrations and seeing your screen light up even when it doesn’t.

Bottom line is it has become NORMAL to be addicted to your phone.

How many times during this article did you stop and check it? That alone should tell you.


Does it sound crazy to leave your phone at home when you go to work, or go to school? Whenever I suggest it to people they tend to look at me sideways, as if every generation before us didn’t venture out into the world without one.

How will we map ourselves home? What if something happens? What if my mom calls?

I suddenly felt that it was weird that anyone at all could access me at any moment, and that maybe I don’t want to make myself that available. As in 24/7 available. I need some space just for myself, just to think, when no messages can be read and the calls go to voicemail. It feels nice living in that space of time that seems uncharted and unchecked by anyone else in the world.

Try it one day, or a couple of days a week, or just leaving it in a completely different room when you are home.

It’s okay to not be tapped in all the time.




  1. Ana Maria says

    I just want to express how much messy heads has positively impacted me. I’ve been in quite the hole recently with emotions and an array of issues feeling as though they’re drowning me relentlessly. Getting back to writing and reading work such as this and those within the Messy Heads magazines have helped me in more ways than one to fight against the waves and pull myself out of the funk. So thank you ever so much for creating this.

  2. One tip that works for me is turn off ALL your notifications. Instagram, Mail, Twitter, Messages… I only have notifications for phone calls and messages from my family. I hate that the first thing I do in the morning is to check my phone, but it’s just a habit… I don’t remember what I did before having social media/a phone. I used to be able to read a book without a problem, now I constantly stop to check my phone, same when I’m watching a movie.

  3. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I constantly have to check my phone and how “used” I am to always having to having it in my hands. I’m currently in my final exam month and it is too big of a distraction and turning it off for a few hours has been making me feel so much better!

  4. So good to read this, I’m just about to start a “network free” week! I have recently admitted to myself I also have a problem. For me, it’s not the phone per se, but being connected, being online. Switched to the least modern model of phone I could find in my drawers but even that had a web browser and facebook (super rudimentar, on java lol), and I found myself checking them all the time; that’s when I realized the smartphone is not my problem, it’s worse than that. It is like my conscience and memory are now divided between my body and the web, that it has become a part of me and I struggle really really hard to leave it. I feel trapped but hopefully will be able to beat it 🙂 cheers Emma <3

  5. THIS!!! Oh man you just took my inner crisis and worded it so wonderfully I feel so thrilled. I recently told all of my friends I was going to get a flip phone and received many a horrified look paired with an incredulous laugh followed by an “okay then”. But you’ve summarized the anxiety so beautifully, technology is suffocating. It’s like, we all spend our time rooted in a virtual world that’s so unreal, basing our worth on the amount of likes a post receives. We are all so deeply connected to maintaining an aesthetic that our experiences are robbed of authenticity. Instead of calling someone and saying “how are you” we creep their profiles, satiated when we see snapshots of sunsets and laughter that “they’re doing okay!”. It’s crazy to me that there was a time in our lives when social media didn’t exist, it’s become such an integral part of the way society moves that it feels weird to recall times when we weren’t accessible 24/7. Thank you for writing this. You’ve made me feel a little less nuts for talking about this non-stop for the last six months, it’s comforting to know that people feel the same.

  6. emma, thank you so much for sharing this. i really have noticed lately that i am on my phone way too much, and i just need to live a little bit more. i need to focus a little less on mindlessly scrolling or constantly checking for a text back and actually put my energy and time to use. you inspire me so much on a daily basis, thank you. xxx

  7. You just turne all these thoughts and fears and anxiety into words and logic and I can’t thank you enough, I feel like this every day and I don’t know how to begin to do something, thank you thank you a thousand times.

  8. rashmika says

    i am so addicted to the world of information and entertainment that lies behind my glass screen. my addiction to my phone has begun to frighten me recently, and i think i am going to try and follow some of your advice.

  9. Thank you for sharing this! This past April i went to the french alps and stayed in a place where there was no internet for miles. I was able to read 3 books in a week and went on walks by myself on mountain paths. I realised how refreshing it was and how much better i felt from it. What saddens me is the fact that because everybody is on social media, it is hard to come off it without feeling excluded from the world. you shone some light emma, thank you xxx

  10. Thank you for bringing this up! Although I myself dont suffer from this, a lot of the people I care about do. It’s really heartbreaking whenever I hang out with other people and all they do is scroll through their phones instead of interacting, sharing ideas, laughing, etc. It can be a bummer sometimes, but Im grateful I dont have data so my bus rides are spent reading books/ listening to podcasts.

  11. Anonymous says

    i just threw my cell phone at a wall last night. was wondering how i was gone a get a new one but now i know! going back to the trap phone bruh! fuck a app and fuck a smart phone and you damn right woman that thing eats my life up tragic. good on you for this shit, the expose, its not normal and its not okay and if we want to be healthy we have to confront even the difficult things, like perhaps the most central and consistent thing in out day (or cellphones) are whats making us miserable. ability to contact one another is a beuaitufl technology, but now we/re living in the capitalization of it. but either way, thanks for this, you convinced one person, if nothing else.

  12. This is amazing Emma!!!! I swear we all feel like this but have been unable to articulate it. Thank you so much 💫

  13. lola w says

    my phone broke awhile ago and bc im not exactly rolling in cash at the moment, its taking me awhile to get one again.
    and the thing is, this month without having a phone is probably the best ive felt in awhile.
    im honestly in love with not having it. its a stress relief. i will be happy to have one again however, because being in contact and having a social life is wonderful, but im definitely doing it in much more moderation.
    its so nice to read about someone that has had a similar experience to me, i feel (especially since im in high school) ive been really alienated from everyone because i dont have a phone, but the worry of what other people think is slowly becoming less and less, which is lovely.
    this made me feel so much better, regardless of not caring. thank you so much for sharing x

  14. Anonymous says

    That’s so true ! Every year I spend a few days at my mum’s godmother house in the french coutryside, where there is no wifi, and we need to walk a few minutes to get phone service. Every time it feels weird the first day, but quickly I start to work out more, to read more, to eat more (well that’s not nececerily good but fresh tomatoes are so good there)… Listening to my family’s stories about how it was when the first car was bought, how mum’s godmother met her husband 60 years ago… that’s so much better than spending your days on twitter for no reason

  15. About a month ago, i took a day without technology. No tv, no computer, no cellphone, no ipod. Anything.
    I started making breakfast and eat by myself. I was mindful of what i was eating and it was more delicious than usual. I got ready. Usually i watch youtube vídeos while i put makeup on, but this time there was only silence. I was so dedicaded to put makeup, it turn out so pretty i was impress. After that I went out to buy some stuff and i was so scared of something, i was almost feeling naked while walking, if something bad happened to me i had no one to call. I calm myself and decided just to look around me. Everyone was on their phone, o with músic on their ears. Friends walking together while on the phone, parents not paying attention to their kids because they were obssed watching the screens. I felt free. They weren’t.
    The rest of day i spend with my family, my dogs, knitting, listening my dad’s old cassette colection. I was so present, but there was this little times when i started to feel desesperate because i didnt know what was going on with my friends or the people i follow on instagram.
    A month later, I want to quit my phone. Sadly, i cant, mainly because of work and because i live far away from my parents. But now i call more than i text. I want to buy a alarma clock and a wrist watch.
    But society pressures you to have one to be “connected”. That makes me so hopeless.
    Glad there is more people like you emma

  16. Aani says

    I love this Emma. Thank you for writing a post on this. I was journaling just before I decided to check out this post. Ironically, I wrote about this exact issue on technology in my journal and how I feel so uncentered at the moment.

    After I had graduated in 2015 I decided it was time to make that summer a moment of reflection. I had come to a decision to delete my snapchat, keep my phone on my side table as often as possible, and check instagram once at the end of each day. I look back on that summer as such an amazing time of personal growth. Two years later and I have found myself wanting to do the same thing all over again. Ever since going about my phone the way I did that summer, I try to continue being a bit more conscious and not let my phone consume every moment of my day. So, when I am out with family and friends I put my phone aside. That way I am present and taking in the memories that can be made with those I love.

  17. Anonymous says

    It is Crazy how I relate to all of this. Youngot mir realizing a lot of Things, Emma. Thank you!

  18. rocio says

    I love the post! I recently deleted the chat group that I had with my friends because I’m currently doing my thesis and I was checking my phone to much, to be honest I think it was the best decision ever.

  19. LOVED this post! Much needed. Also inspired by all the comments! I’m currently going through what you could definitely call a phone addiction so this is like a wake up call to just live, uninterrupted by my cell. Thanks for sharing

  20. Abigail says

    I cannot tell you how much this post has inspired me!! Phone and social media addition is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and I know that i definitely struggle from it. I’ve been doing little things over time like deleting my Snapchat and twitter accounts but this has inspired to properly do something about it and from now on I’m going to make a real effort to use my phone less. Thank you Emma and The Messy Heads for writing about real things and issues and for being so inspiring to young girls everywhere xx

  21. abbeylouu says

    i think this is such a necessary topic to talk about, I’m in love!!

    A year or so ago my phone experienced a tragic event in a public restroom and couldn’t be revived, and at the time buying a new phone wasn’t on the cards, so i spent the remaining 11 months disconnected. And honestly, it was such an eye-opening experience! In those months i realised just how reliant I was on having my phone at my side 24/7. Going to lunch with friends opened my eyes to how often we lack to be social, how often we lack connection. It made me do things i normally wouldn’t, like figuring out how to send a text message from a pay phone (definitely a task and a half) and asking the people around me for directions. It opened my eyes to how we may be connected to something more online, but we tend to lack true connection with each other. Now that i have a phone again, i’m nowhere near as reliant on using it as i used to be and despite how i may get caught up once and a while on an instagram theme or worrying about texting someone back, it’s not a constant concern. So thank you past me, for accidentally dropping your phone in a public bathroom toilet, if you hadn’t, you wouldn’t be as wise!! xx

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  23. I recently did a visual essay on the disconnect faced by Cubans in their country. Although having limited technology is a chance to find pleasure in your immediate world and time to develop interests and relationships. We have become so reliant on it. The fact that Cuba has some of the most restricted internet in the world means that those who rely on connecting on the outside world to watch videos or even reconnect with family are being sheltered.

    In saying that I do understand the importance of having solitude and time to turn off. Meditating or having days where you don’t touch your phone are sometimes necessary. I’ve been trying to find a charger for my Gran’s old Nokia for the longest time!

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  25. i’ve been feeling this way for… well probably forever.
    Compared to most people i do not spend a great deal of my time on my phone/social media and people around me wouldn’t describe me as being addicted to my phone. i’d like to think i’m a little old school, preferring record players and polaroid cameras, an ‘ancient’ iphone 5.
    But even with my somewhat limited phone presence, it’s never been enough. i usually leave my phone at home when i go out but i’m still checking instagram every night, obsessing (even if i assure myself i’m not) over other instagrammers perfectly constructed themes and ways of life very publicly displayed ways of life.
    i guess i’ve gotten to a point where i’m so over it that i can’t just cut back even more on my usage anymore because i feel like it’s still to much for me.
    i find myself constantly pining after the ‘old days’ where mobile phones + social media didn’t exist but not really doing anything about this. i think of myself as being old school and not addicted to my phone but it’s completely false, i am just like everyone else – my greatest fear.
    so i think my resolution will be to go back to a simple nokia- just pack up and leave the increasingly suffocating social world like i have always wanted to but have been convinced otherwise.
    thank you emma,
    you have helped me greatly.


  26. amystegena says

    This is so eyeopening wow! I find the same thing with my phone – that I’m bloody addicted! It stresses me out so much, and I really feel affected by all the technology around me, and the fact that it’s always with me and I’m always needing to check it. To try and help this, I don’t have any notifications turned on for any social and messenger apps on my phone and I try to have a technology free hour whenever I can, it helps me feel refreshed and balanced. Thank you so much Emma, I feel so driven to make a change in my life and focus on the real things in my life!!!
    You’re an inspiration 🙂 x

  27. wow I love this so much. Earlier this year I deleted all my socials and it felt so good that I spent my time doing something else rather then being on my phone. I’m totally gonna try that again

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