Why I Switched to a Flip Phone
There’s a patch of graffiti on the road near my house that says, “Fuck the present — I was promised a flying car.” I see it everyday, and cringe at the idea of us all texting and flying. Even though we don’t have the flying cars yet, technology has wrapped it’s tentacles around everything we do. On the individual level, the vehicle for this has been the smartphone. In fifty years, when our grandkids are watching the documentary about the career of Lebron James, and there’s a shot of him walking through a crowd of adoring fans, they’re going to see a very weird thing — crowds of people holding up phones to document the moment, each individual absorbed in their own self, looking through a tiny screen, completely disconnected from those around them.
The smartphone is a two-edged sword. Sure, in a lot of ways it’s simplified our lives. No more reading a map or printing off directions from Mapquest before you leave the house. No more carrying around a bulky video camera if you want to document your life. Planning where you’re going to eat before you go out? Why do that, you’ve got Google with you wherever you go. Connecting with friends has never been easier with apps like Snapchat and Instagram and Twitter, where you can express yourself through every medium possible. I love being able to listen to podcasts and audiobooks wherever I’m at. But the downside of this unlimited connection just can’t be ignored. And it’s not just the perpetual collection of your data, tracking you every step of your day.
What will our kids remember about us? That we were always looking down, mindlessly scrolling, always distracted by that fucking phone? When was the last time you actually benefited from getting a CNN alert letting you know about the latest Trump bullshit or a terrorist attack in another country? In line at Starbucks, do you observe the people and things around you and look for a chance to connect with someone, or is your head down and your thumb flicking…passing those boring moments with useless pictures and text. How often do you find yourself driving, and picking up your phone to check for notifications, not because you’re waiting on an important email, but because you can’t even focus on the road for ten minutes without feeling the urge to look down, to connect to the soulless screen.
Some people have the discipline to put their phone down and go about their lives, but for me, that just wasn’t possible. I tried restricting sites like Reddit and Twitter so that I could only look at them once a day, but quickly reasoned myself into turning off that extension. I wanted to find a way to keep the things I loved about the smartphone, like Tinder and Snapchat (human connections) and my podcasts (learning and growth), but not have them with me 24/7. Enter: the flip phone.
Now, I’m not a flip phone guy. It’s fucking weird to have no social media accounts and to purposely live in isolation. But there is a work around, and a cheap one at that. Buy a $20 flip phone from Target or Wal-Mart or ebay, call your provider and switch your plan to unlimited talk and text on your flip phone, with no data (I pay $30/month). In order to avoid having to print off directions, get a nice GPS for your car from Amazon for under $100. Now you’ve got a phone to carry with you wherever you go that allows you to talk and text, but the internet is gone. You can even text without looking at your phone (remember T9Word! It’s a great thing). You’ve got to keep that smartphone though! You can use it wherever there is wifi, so at your house, school, maybe even work. Stay connected with Snapchat, don’t be weird. And if you’re still dating, why give up the apps that actually give you a chance to meet someone? Download a podcast before you leave the house, and you’ve still got that for your commutes to work. If you think that having two phones is too complicated, you really only have one and will soon realize that you can leave your smartphone at home when needed, and will find yourself doing it more and more as time passes.
Disconnect for portions of your day. Be present in public places. Forget about politics. Stop mindlessly scrolling. You don’t need your phone. It’s not making your life better. Once you realize this, you’ll be joining the revolution against the ever-growing technological virus that’s eating through our society. It’s time for a soft opt out. Just do it.