The grey skies of January continue, the moon is in its first quarter, and the sun goes down at 5:25pm on this gloomy Sunday.

Today I spent an hour in the corner of a shopping mall, borrowing the internet of a fast-fashion shop that closed at noon because too many of its workers had the plague. I leaned against an artificial tree, still recovering from the chipper mayhem of the Apple store, where I’d just exchanged some old hardware for their smallest telephone (which they might discontinue).

I want my phone to have less influence in my life, for it to feel like a tool rather than a devious magnet. Owning one with a smaller physical presence seems like a sensible move.

Crouched at the foot of the artificial tree, I waited for my tiny new device to sort itself out and set itself up. Seventeen minutes remained as the progress bar inched across the screen, restoring my life from god only knew. I grew antsy during these long minutes of being genuinely off the grid. I was not just euphemistically in Focus Mode or Do Not Disturb—no, I was truly unreachable for the first time in ages. I felt like a negligent citizen as I imagined the critical messages I might be missing: breaking news and urgent work requests, perhaps an offer of cash and prizes—or loved ones having medical events.

Beneath this junkie craving for fresh data, a new thought arrived with the force of revelation: Why set up my phone at all? The idea left me woozy with fantasies of a spartan, monastic life beyond the network. But I needed to get my phone running because I had no idea how to find my way home from the shopping mall.

When I finally reconnected to the grid, there was no new information waiting for me except a spam message offering to make me a custom logo for $10.