From a smartphone to a “dumbphone”
While everyone, including my parents, was upgrading their phones to the latest new smartphone this holiday season, I got myself an old flip phone.
At first, I really didn’t think that I’d go that archaic and would just get an older Blackberry – that way, I’d still have a GPS and still be able to text without having to relearn how to text on the 3×4 number keypad.
But then I remembered why I wanted to switch in the first place. Just transitioning to a Blackberry wasn’t good enough – I knew I needed to go all the way. I wanted to get rid of any temptations that could lead me back to my old habits. My boyfriend says I simply have a lack of self control but I just think that less is more.
Here is why I got rid of my smartphone:
1. My phone was giving me anxiety. Just spending one day away from my phone made me feel more present in my life; but once I started thinking about the messages that were waiting for my response, anxiety would start to build up inside me.
2. I felt guilty for not responding to every message within 24 hours. The problem was, there were messages from 8+ different channels.
3. Too often was I helping friends resolve their personal issues over lengthy messages rather than face to face or over the phone. This changed my friendships a lot, discreetly, over time.
4. My phone was literally causing arguments between me and my partner. It took my attention away from him when we were together, and vice versa.
5. I found myself, on more than a few occasions, crossing the street while looking down at my phone. Finally, a construction worker yelled at me to look up and it shook me to my senses.
6. Texts had led to terrible misunderstandings, which resulted in arguments. The emotional nuances in texts are difficult to interpret and are often not what they seem.
7. I was no longer a good listener, or good reader. I would constantly zone out when my boyfriend was talking to me and I think it’s because I would have too much on my mind – perhaps overloaded? Our phones keep us connected to the web at all times so you are never really 100% present if you are still thinking about an email you have yet to respond to or a question you want to Google right away.
1 Week after using a flip phone…
To be honest, I had some anxiety in the very beginning. I hesitated when it really came down to making the switch. Although I was quite sure it was the best decision, I was scared of being so disconnected. Even my boyfriend was upset at first because he was so used to chatting with me through our couples app.
Not only was I switching to a flip phone but I also downgraded my plan to a talk & text plan with no data.
For the first few days, I still kept my smartphone on me just in case I needed it. Several times, I had to connect it to a coffee shop wifi to use the GPS because I had left the house forgetting to look up directions beforehand (old habit).
But I’ve already felt so much better since a week ago.
I now feel the desire to call my friends to chat and hear their voice. Whereas before I hated calling people, now I LOVE IT. (Also, it takes me so long to text using T9 that I’d just rather call.)
When I’m on public transit or walking, I am paying attention to my surroundings, thinking, or relaxing my mind, rather than looking at my phone screen reading some quick facts to pass time.
I believe that as human beings, it is necessary for us to be in solitude at times, where thinking and reflecting is done best.
In the end, it’s a war for attention
Every website, article, game, and company simply wants to hold onto our attention for as long as they can – heck, even this article! (But hopefully this will get you to think and then improve your own life.)
Now that we have access to unlimited information on the world wide web, our attention span is decreasing as a result and I can feel it affect mine. Every day, we rush between different sources, absorbing as much information as possible within a short time period.
On a side note: I’m currently reading a book called “Slow Reading in a Hurried Age” by David Mikics, relearning how to read properly again. Yes I am a notorious skimmer.
While looking online for reaffirmation that what I was doing was not absolutely idiotic, I came across Tristan Harris, who worked as a Design Ethicist for Google before leaving to create his own nonprofit called Time Well Spent which focuses on making sure that our technology is “in harmony with our well-being, our social values, and our democratic principles.”
From their website, you’ll find these statements which I think myself and many of my peers have also realized to be true:
Snapchat turns conversations into streaks, redefining how our children measure friendship.
Instagram glorifies the picture-perfect life, eroding our self worth.
Facebook segregates us into echo chambers, fragmenting our communities.
YouTube autoplays the next perfect video, even if it eats into our sleep.
I agree that technology has been extremely beneficial to mankind. It has helped me connect with family members who are far away, it has made information much more readily available, and helped spread important news quickly. It also holds people accountable because if they do something hurtful, their victim can open up online (for example, the recent sexual harassment cases from Hollywood).
Technology is here to stay, but we cannot let it deteriorate our mental health, our relationships, and our democracy.
At the end of the day, I just care about everyone’s well-being. Are all our basic needs met? Are we all happy? Are we aware of our impact on the world around us? Are we taking care of our world or are we destroying it? I’ll end with this quote for you to think on:
Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world – Miyamoto Musashi