This Young Woman Hasn’t Touched a Smartphone in Eight Months, Stands to Win $100,000

Remember Vitaminwater’s “scroll free for a year” challenge that dared people to go smartphone free for a whole year to win $100,000? Well, this New York woman is eight months into her smartphone-free year, and just four months away from claiming grand prize.

Vitaminwater made news headlines last December when it announced its unique challenge. Thousands of people applied to be chosen as the perfect candidate to spend a year without touching their smartphone, but in the end, the only person who got to try and survive for an entire year without a handheld was Elana Mugdan, a 29-year-old fiction writer from Queens, New York. Eight months into the challenge, she claims it’s been a freeing and eye-opening experience that showed her just how dependent she had become to her smartphone. Even though there are times when she misses her handheld, she plans to go on living without it even after the challenge ends.

Photo: Elana Mugdan/Instagram

“I’ve decided that I will never go back to smartphone use once the one-year contest is up,” Mugdan told CNN. “I don’t think I can be trusted with the technology — if I have access to a smartphone, I suspect I’ll go right back to abusing it, wasting time, staying up all hours of the night on it, and getting addicted to social media, and I really don’t want to go back to all that.”

When she started the “Scroll Free For a Year” challenge, Elana Mugdan had to trade her iPhone 5s for a Kyocera flip phone that she could only use to call and text. She still has access to her laptop, desktop PC and high-tech devices like Amazon Echo, but not having access to her smartphone really made certain situations a lot harder than she could have imagined them before.

“Once, I almost got stranded in the SeaTac airport because the phone number I’d written down was wrong, and I had no way of looking up the right one, no way of calling a cab or Uber, and no one in the state who could help me,” the young fantasy writer said.

Another time, her car’s “check engine” light turned on while she was driving in an unfamiliar area, at night. She couldn’t use her phone’s GPS location feature, or even check what the light meant on Google or find a nearby car repair shop. Still, she learned to overcome these situations and claims the last eight months of smartphone-free life have been one of the best adventures of her life.

If she manages to go another four months without using a smartphone, the 29-year-old New-Yorker stands to pocket $100,000, but according to the rules, she will also have to undergo a lite-detector test to prove that she didn’t cheat during the one-year challenge.