I'll be the first to admit that I'm madly addicted to my phone. I'm probably equal parts aware of the problem and absolutely hating myself for it. (I could associate this self-initiated guilt with cultural Catholicism, but am not totally sure.) Anyway, even I still know there are some situations in which a grown-ass person needs to know to power off their phone—to unplug, snip the leash, and go off the grid.
I went on a mountain-based writing retreat a few months back. At one point, I dipped off to the hot tub solo. The others said they'd join me soon. Since I was a little stoned and it was super dark and I had finished the whole miniseries The Jinx immediately prior to the trip, I didn't stick around longer than three Dolly Parton tracks before ascending back up to check in on everyone and where the hell they were. They were there, inside, each buried in the soft glow of their individual phones in complete silence. The whole scenario greatly bummed me out, because this trip had been a deliberate effort to disconnect from distractions and go all in on creative collaboration and attention to our writing. It wasn't supposed to be an excuse to beef up our individual Instagrams with evidence of our prioritization of all these goals.
But anyway, to each their own or whatever. Can't get mad at Millennials for being Millennials. However, the experience did make me think and after I just circled back to my original hypothesis: There are just some times when a grown-ass person needs to turn their phone off.
When you're on deadline
Cell phones can provide fun to helpful distractions while filling idle time. Like waiting in line, or sitting on the toil—I mean, GROSS. Who does that, even? Anyway, if it's go time for you to focus on meeting some time-sensitive goal—be it cleaning your apartment before your folks visit, getting ducks in a row prior to travel, finishing a freelance assignment—let yourself do just that. Don't let attention wonder into the endless bowels of social media or exchanging GIFs with an old girlfriend across the country. It can wait.
When you feel borderline overwhelmed or super stressed
Being plugged into a mobile device, aka, a thing you can keep handy and within your easy eyesight at all times is, in a way, a channel for the universe to constantly tap you on the shoulder. "RSVP to this!" "What is that show Thursday, again?" "Here's that credit card bill you wanted to unthink from ever happening!" Preserve your sanity and first address the most pressing stressor getting you so overwhelmed in to begin with then you can sweat a pooling inbox or whatever.
When you're in a real life conversation
Imagine you're freshly dumped and desperately need a good ear in which to funnel all the feels pinballing inside your now empty body. Imagine when—balls-deep into it—you hear a little buzz and that ear metaphorically shuts. It's rude! Preserve your IRL friendships by being present, especially during moments when you're most needed.
When you're on vacation
This also is a concern of being present. It's hard to successfully absorb your setting, which is so worthy of appreciation, when your phone pulls your brain in 50 physical locations and 500 mental ones. Conversely, gloating too hard about your vacation via drool-worthy Instagrams of exotic fare or humblebrag tweets about an innate knack for the local language is kinda counterproductive to enjoying either of these treats.
When you're on a date
Why bother making specific plans to be around only each other if you're both buried in your phones or defaulting to lots of visual cues via Google or your photo roll? Seems moot. If you can't dig on each other without distractions or aids, don't bother going out.
When you're getting laid
The last thing you want on the brink of orgasm is your phone to vibrate attention away from that. (There's other, better vibrators to facilitate meeting it.) It can and absolutely should wait. Unless of course you're dating Sting or something, in which case, have a limited, dedicated window for shutting down.
When you feel like you're on a fire roll with Twitter/Instagram/etc.
You're not. Have mercy on your followers' feeds.
When you're catching up with visitors or those you're visiting
It's a respect thing. If someone lugged their bodies and a small number of possession to be in closer physical proximity to your body and possessions (specifically, the cat, in my experience), indulge in it. And if you're the one making the visit, make it worthwhile instead of peripherally keeping plugged into what's going on in your normal location.
When you're (maybe drunk and) feeling argumentative
That's what your anger journal is for. Or—IDK—aggressively cleaning your bathtub? At least that's my solid go-to.
When you're drunk and feeling frisky
Real friends don't let friends drunk Tinder.
When you're (maybe drunk and) feeling abusively nostalgic
Maybe you marathoned a metric ton of The O.C. and the whole dip back into your high school days has got your brain buzzing on that one dude you used to pressure to wear a choker à la Ryan Atwood. How the hell is that guy, anyway? It wasn't so bad he regularly blew off y'all's plans to get so stoned in the park he forgot to ever text back.
You don't need to do this. At all. Other scenarios that can summon these short-game "give me my phone, I have some feelings to work out" impulses including: holidays, periods, Blue Moon by the bottle, someone wearing Old Spice, passing you at the grocery store. Instead of even "checking in" via social media with people from your past, power down and like, go outside or something. The feeling will pass and that's a good thing.
When it's a major holiday
Enjoy the present moment in which a lot of people you (presumably) love congregate to celebrate whatever the calendar or social media made-up hashtag holidays dictate. See what all the fuss about this whole being present thing is about. You can always brag about this ability via Twitter later in the evening, if absolutely necessary (which...it probably is).
When you fucking feel like it
When you're off the work clock and anyone who might worry if not in constant contact knows you're safe, go for it literally whenever. It's your life, do whatcha want with it sans tugging of an electronic leash. You'll probably be much healthier for it.