When was the last time you went an extended period of time without a smartphone?
If you’re like most millennials and Gen Zs, it’s not hyperbole to say you’ve had a phone in your pocket every single day for more than a decade. In my case, I’ve continuously had a cellphone in my pocket every single day for 14 years.
And when it wasn’t in my pocket, it was rarely more than an arm’s reach away.
Like many other smartphoners, my phone was the first thing I looked at in the morning and the last thing I looked at before falling asleep.
Since my first cell phone — a Samsung M300 flip phone in 2008 — this addictive little device has become an extension of my own arm. Think about it: we’re essentially cyborgs. Our fingertips can be equipped with a calculator, flashlight, an unlimited source of information, a camera, health monitors, translators, and, frighteningly, so much more.
I had my spectacular iPhone 13 stolen from me while riding public transit, and it turned me into a “ditch your smartphone” preacher.
At the time, I was angry and surprisingly sad. I spent four days frantically chasing it on Find My iPhone, to no avail. I spent hours trying to back up files and even more time grieving.
I felt like I’d lost a friend.
And then it hit me — mourning the loss of something that has a battery cannot be healthy.
Relying on a device’s battery life for my daily distractions has not been good for my mental health. Over the past five years, I’ve had four different iPhones and constantly accepted all the latest iOS upgrades. Forget relying on my phone, I needed it.
When my phone was snatched, I spent the first four days absolutely phoneless, asking friends and family to contact me through my trusty ol’ email address.
During my unplugged hiatus, I listened to podcasts from ex-technology employees, specifically Tristan Harris (a former Google design ethicist and subject of Netflix’s The Social Dilemma), who publicly warns about how big tech companies should feel an “enormous responsibility” to ensure humanity doesn’t spend the rest of its days “buried in a smartphone.”
Harris has spoken adamantly about how the algorithms in smartphone use and social media trigger the same reward mechanisms as slot machines that “hijack users’ attention.” Heck, I bought my first cellphone to store in my glove compartment in case my car didn’t start. How quickly has it evolved to hijacking my attention?
The stats are scary, studies have shown that people in North America spend more than three hours per day on their smartphones, an addiction that has only increased over the course of the pandemic.
Spending three hours per day on your phone equates to over 1,200 hours per year, the equivalent of more than 50 days a year staring at a glowing rectangle.
Think of all the things you’re not doing by staring at your phone.
Not looking at your phone while watching a TV show is the new reading a book.
— Wendy Molyneux (@WendyMolyneux) January 16, 2022
If you’re still with me, here are the most notable areas of my life that I’ve seen an instant improvement in since downgrading to a flip Samsung Rugby 3. It can send and receive texts, make calls, and it even shows the time.
Oddly enough, going without something that has many apps, features, and uses as the iPhone 13 does, my productivity has increased dramatically.
I bought this nifty non-battery device called a notebook and wrote down daily tasks and long-term tasks in it using an incredible invention called a pen.
There are no distractions.
Despite not having a phenomenal state-of-the-art three-lens camera in my pocket at all times, I’ve found myself appreciating nature more.
It’s oddly satisfying to go back to living in the moment and not have the urge to capture everything that happens all the time.
My book reading has increased exponentially. When I find myself yearning to scroll, I substitute one rectangle for another and dive into a book.
Sleeping has been the biggest improvement since going to a flip phone. Smartphones emit blue light, an artificial colour that mimics daylight. Essentially, using your phone before bed tricks your brain into thinking it’s the morning, which results in a chemical release that keeps your brain awake as you fall asleep.
Besides going back to T9 texting, ditching the need to replace my iPhone with another smartphone has been an overall improvement to my day-to-day functionality.
I still use my computer to satisfy my internet needs, social media, and entertainment. The major difference being it’s a conscious decision to “surf the web” versus being reliant on pulling out my phone every six minutes.
We’re heading towards a zombie apocalypse. Some weird cyborg-zombie-hybrid kind where we won’t look up from our phones — or whatever smartphones evolve into down the line. I’m warning you, don’t look down.
If you need me? I’ll be the guy reading the back of shampoo bottles while using the bathroom…