My new phone is a flip-phone

On October 28, 2014 I began a personal experiment to wean myself from smartphone dependence, so I got myself a Samsung Flip-Phone. I will attempt to describe my reasoning for trying such a “far out” experience.

Once upon a time, cell phones did not exist – actually, before that, at one point phones did not exist, but my story starts at a time between when phones existed but cell phones did not. At this point in time, people would make phone calls from home. If they needed to go somewhere, they would find the address and drive there – watching the road, NOT taking time at stop lights to check Facebook or Instagram, NOT texting friends, and NOT snaping photos. While at restaurants, it would not be uncommon to observe couples on dates conversing with each other, completely free from distracting dings, rings, and other phone emitting musical things.

At some point, cell phones became affordable and provided the ability to stay connected everywhere. Suddenly the thought that you could call for help immediately on the side of the road became an enticing idea. The thought that at any time, you could call your significant other was often a significant reason to get on a cell phone plan.

Smartphones and the iphone moved the World into a new era of dependency … a dependency on instant Internet access at all times. I found myself seriously wondering how I survived before cell phones. How did I find my way around large cities like Chicago without Google Maps? What did I entertain myself with at restaurants while waiting for the food? What was it like to not have a heavy weight in my pocket at all times? What was it like to have quiet or protected time for myself?

I see today’s society having fallen into a trap, similar to the story of the frog (societal individuals) and the boiling water (modern society’s dependence on smartphones and their many distractions). This is the story of how if you throw a frog into a boiling pot of water, they immediately jump out to safety. If you, instead, put the frog into the water first and then boil it, they never jump out and die. As a society, we no longer know how to find our own way without GPS. We no longer fully engage in interpersonal conversations. We find ourselves in a constant state of mild anxiety secondary to our inability to get away and recharge. Social media helps to make us feel like we fall short, that others are getting to have wonderful experiences that we are missing out on, that everyone else is all put together while we are not. Ironically, we all look at each other thinking the same things, while we all share the same pot.

I am currently reading Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile. The further I get, the more I learn how to mitigate risk, make my life more antifragile, find redundancies in systems, the more I am convinced that this should not be simply an experiment … it might actually be necessary!

There is a budding movement away from smartphones towards “dumb” phones like my flip phone. I am not alone (Warren Buffet, Karl MaloneAndrew LuckAnna Wintour). There are others who have blogged about their choices like: Sarah EdwardsLaura NewcomerBecky Falto.  Websites describing people using “dumb” phones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. NOTE: A “dumb” phone is really a misnomer – it just means the technological hardware is a phone … without all the other bells and whistles that we become dependent on (this make me wonder if smartphones could talk, would they say they have a dumb human?).

Other people (like Mashable or ebay) reference reasons to switch to a dumbphone and include among other points:

  • Battery Life – You only have to charge them every few days.
  • If you lose one, it’s not that big of a deal.
  • Your job can’t reach you via email and ruin your vacation.
  • They’re small.
  • It comes with low data fees.
  • No more butt dialing.
  • Convenience
  • Durability
  • Simplicity
  • Disengaging

Of those points, I care about the simplicity factor, battery life (I haven’t had to charge it yet), size, and disengagingness.

While I had a smartphone, I texted frequently. I took a lot of meaningless pictures. I downloaded many funny but pointless memes. I wasted much of my life reading news, social media, reading many daily emails as they arrived, played unproductive games, and many more activities during which I had many other more important things I should have been doing. Ironically, I rarely used my smartphone … as a phone (like this persons experience here in the Washington Post).

In the end, I really just want this experience (excerpt quote from here):

Because I cannot connect with my friends through media while I’m out and about, because I cannot play Angry Birds or browse emails on the subway, I am stuck with myself, and no one else. Getting lost, both literally and figuratively, has forced me to cultivate my relationship with myself. It requires that I be present with where I am, what I’m doing, and who I’m with, even when it sucks.

I want to be comfortable with myself – at all times. Not requiring anything else to hold my attention; comfortable with my thoughts alone; paying full attention to the thoughts and discussions of those I am with; Completely sharing life with others (not Siri)

You live one life.
I choose to experience my life.
I choose NOT to spend significant more time updating a status or photo multiple times a day.
I choose NOT to get caught up in the FOMO mentality.
I choose to share my life with close friends in meaningful, uplifting, and engaging conversations and shared experiences.