Little Neck fantasy author to live a smartphone-free year for $100,000 prize

Elana Mugdan_courtesy of vitaminwater
Photo courtesy of vitaminwater

For one year, Little Neck native and fantasy author Elana Mugdan is living a smartphone-free life.

Her endeavor is not a self-imposed technological purge, but rather part of a competition created by vitaminwater challenging their consumers to live a “scroll-free” life.

Back in December 2018, her friends sent her news stories about the vitaminwater competition and urged her to enter. The contest involved creating a Tweet or Instagram video explaining how a person would use their year if they took a break from their cellphone.

“Everyone who is close to me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with my phone,” she said adding that though she relies on her phone for many things, she hated the feeling of being “tethered, attached and addicted” to it.

After reading the contest rules, she settled on creating a humorous infomercial-style video with family friends over the holidays. In January, vitaminwater reached out to Mugdan informing her that her video had been chosen out over 100,000 entries and she would be competing in the “no smartphone” challenge.

She recalled that she was out to lunch with a friend when she got the email.

“I lost it,” said Mugdan. “I got out of the car and did a lap around it just to make sure I read the email right. It was a life-changing moment.”

As of Friday, Feb. 15, at 7 a.m., Mugdan locked away her iPhone 5s and is also not allowed to use anyone else’s smartphone or tablet. Instead, vitaminwater provided her with a snazzy Kyocera flip phone and will allow her access to laptop and desktop computers.

She is scheduled for monthly check-ins with vitaminwater and at the end of a year she will take a lie detector test. She will be releasing weekly vlogs of her journey on her YouTube channel.

The Little Neck resident shared that adjusting to life without her smartphone has come with its own obstacles, including learning to text and navigate without online maps.

Despite the challenges, Mugdan said that she has already experienced positive life changes and hopes that she will be able to implement the “permanent lifestyle changes” once the contest is over.

She noted that she is able to get to bed earlier, is not obsessed over text messages and has become more present and aware of the world around her.

“I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with real life,” she said. “It’s been liberating and I realize that I’ve definitely been dependent on [smartphones].”

She plans to spend her newfound free time finishing her five-book young adult fantasy novel series. She released the first installment entitled “Dragon Speaker” last year and launched a self-organized book tour this past January.

Apart from that, Mugdan wants to “get out in the real world” and “live awesomely” which includes enjoying the things she loves with the people she loves.

If she wins the money, she hopes to be able to invest a chunk of it to “jumpstart her career in writing” and transform her from a self-described “broke, starving artist.” She also hopes to use her platform to bring awareness and give back to causes dealing with the environment and human and animal rights.

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