You Are Eligible for a Free Downgrade!
I didn’t mean to make my life better by destroying my smartphone.
I was grilling in the backyard listening to music on my phone when the worst possible thing imaginable for most of the world happened to me. My phone tumbled out of my tenuous grasp and landed screen-down on the brick patio. The routine minor tragedy had finally happened to me, the guy who insisted on never carrying phone insurance through my charmed smartphone owning career.
The first ten minutes were spent in disbelieving sadness. There were even chards sticking out of the screen, making it impossible for me to live the splinter-tattooed phone life. I had to revert to retired technology that lived in cobwebbed corners of my house, sharing spaces with forgotten baseball cards and pocket knives. My previous phone had been an Iphone 4 that had survived its two year deployment relatively unscathed. I dug it out and charged it for its renewed mission. I knew that most of the apps on it were already obsolete by several ios updates. Planning a craigslist purchase to rejoin the ranks of Android users, I re-activated the 4 and promised myself it would be purely temporary.
Like I thought, most of the apps were wanting for updates or didnt work at all. Instagram was the first to go. I tried to open Facebook, the familiar icon that occupied the home screen of my Android and drew my finger instinctively during any period of boredom. On Android, it filled me with sadness and anger over the relative stupidity of almost every person I knew. With every share of shoddily compiled facts, re-used memes, or co-opted Reddit content I grew more angry and disenfranchised with society. And not just anonymous society, the one that I grew up in, chose to be friends with, and were related to.
It wasn’t always that way. I joined Facebook after the prodding of my Freshman year girlfriend and friends in the winter of 2005. At that time it was a bastion of youthful ignorance. The only shoddy posts were the pictures of your dorm room littered with beer cans that were sure to get you in trouble. That was after the revolutionary update that allowed you to post pictures. Now it was the home of aunts, uncles and church ladies. What started as an act of rebellion and a way to measure how many friends you had at different colleges had turned into the sounding board for misinformed ‘hot takes’ on world events.
My freedom from this sadness came in the form of extremely low loading times on my 3g iPhone 4. After the first two clicks I realized that there was 0 purpose in even trying to load the first four posts that were to be displayed. Even on wifi there was no improved performance. Not wanting to delete it entirely, I moved the icon to the non-home screen. Feeling relieved I started to browse through the rest of the phone’s contents. It read as a wonderful time-capsule of my life from two years earlier. All my pictures were still there, of vacations, of the day we got our puppy, of all sorts of fun memories that came rushing back. I could chronicle in my memories the growth of my love for Miranda through goofy photos that we took together. I was able to observe two of the best years of my life through renewed perspective.
For the next few days I peppered Miranda with blast from the past photos that were some of the best times we had. I also started to use some of the standard functions on my phone with my time other than simply scrolling through a feed. The notepad became my new app of choice, as well as Duolingo who had gotten lost in the shuffle on my Android but was still an extremely high functioning app on the 4. As I replaced old phone time wasters with new ones that were more on the creative and productive side I felt a mood change. Gone was the baseline sadness of being awash in other people’s shallow opinions. I was doing my own thing, in my own little bubble, and realizing that my online experience could be a productive island instead of a sea of despair.
It has been two months since my downgrade and I don’t know if I ever want to go back. I know that eventually I will, that this glorious return to outdated technology has to end. But I feel like my attitude towards my smartphone has changed. When phones started to gain new capabilities besides texting and calls it was welcomed as a boon in productivity. A decade into it and it has swallowed our souls along with every second of down time. With my accidental obsolescence I earned back some of both.