What Living Without a Smart Phone Taught Me

Well, it has finally happened, I made the switch from a flip phone to an iPhone. Living with a flip phone has been a part of  my identity for the last eight years and honestly, I loved it. Talking on the phone has never been something I enjoyed so really a cell phone was just one of those things I needed to own, but didn’t value at all. I could go all weekend without even knowing where my phone was, let alone wondering if anyone has called it. This habit of mine has definitely irked a few friends, but I always made sure to tell clients and coworkers that email is the best way to keep in contact.

My photography career demands that I spend hours a day in front of a computer or behind a DSLR so the last thing I wanted was to be looking at yet another screen. I have to admit, I have poor impulse control and I’m often hopping on my computer to check email, Facebook, and blog traffic even if I just checked all three an hour ago. I cherished the inherent simplicity of a flip phone even if it did make some things a bit more difficult.  I loved seeing older people using the exact same flip phone as me. I thought, if they have lived without a smart phone their entire lives, so could I or at least I could try. In a world where we are always so connected, I had choosen to distance myself a little bit, even if that meant missing out on some job opportunities or making a wrong turn here or there.

I finally started giving a smart phone some serious thought after I realized I couldn’t download yet another app to my tablet. When I mentioned this to a friend, she immediately offered up her old iphone4 and I realized I had run out of excuses. It was finally time to give in and succumb to all the pressure from family, friends, and society in general. I had to be honest with myself, it wasn’t about money or conflict minerals or whatever other excuses I would spew out when people would ask, it was about changing and discarding a piece of my identity. It was about letting go of one type of simplicity and embracing another.

As a flip phone user for about five years longer than the rest of the world’s population, here’s what I learned while foregoing a smart phone for almost a decade:

You’ll develop a great sense of direction. You’ll look up an address, commit it to memory and actually visualize where you’re going and how you’ll get there. When was the last time you tried driving to a new place without google maps?

You will spend time day dreaming and scheming because you’ll enevitably be bored without an instant distraction in the palm of your hand.

You will miss out on photos, videos, and emojis because your flip phone doesn’t know what the fuck is going on or how to handle the incoming data. Group texting will be impossible to keep up with and you’ll certainly get frustrated, but in the scheme of things none of that shit matters. The photos, videos, emojis, and group texts are probably the least important aspect of your entire year and next week you will receive more. It’s kind of fun to interpret the little squares into whatever emoji you think you should have received anyway.

You’ll never worry about your phone’s wellbeing even when your nephew drops it into a glass of water, because you’re fairly certain it’s indestructible and if it’s not, you have a drawer full of old replacements.

Dropping your phone facedown on the pavement elicits no reaction because there is no such thing as a cracked screen in the world of flip phones.

Battery life won’t cause you anxiety because there is no percentage ticking down, down, down. Your battery is measured by 5 little bars and that thing can last on one bar for days.

You will live in the moment without distractions, without instant answers, and without your security blanket you refer to as a phone.

You will be comfortable having ‘nothing’ to do and you’ll realize bordem is a state of mind we can choose or resist against. Twiddle your thumbs or meditate, your flip phone doesn’t care because it can’t talk back to you.

People will approach you at parties, in bars, and on the street because you aren’t glued to a screen. You’ll smile at strangers instead of avoiding their gaze and connections will be created.

You will pay attention to your friends when they speak and you’ll have something intelligent, helpful, or humorous to say in return. You’ll notice the subtle nuances in their stories and you’ll offer support and guidance.

You will think really freaking hard about that actor’s name you can’t remember from that movie you forget the name of. You’ll ponder facts and probably get a few of them completely wrong.

You will trust your instincts about directions, restaurants, and other menial decisions.

You will go with the flow and figure shit out as it happens. You’ll cease to care about how things should have went and instead deal with how they’re going right now.

You will take in your surroundings and notice storefronts and landmarks. You’ll start to orient yourself with the mountains, ocean, and stars to determine the direction you’re traveling.

You will enjoy a healthy level of disconnect and you’ll be out of the loop more than you’re in it. You’ll enjoy not reading work emails in bed on Sunday morning when you don’t intend to answer them anyway.

You will not give two fucks about having internet service because that is totally normal for you.

You will not research your every move because you don’t have time for that shit. You’ll walk into a place and walk right back out if you’re not feeling it.

You will drive to an address and a Starbucks will not be there and you’ll be pissed off and laughing at the same time because this isn’t the first or last time you’ve encountered a phantom coffee shop.

People will judge you and that feeling will suck. You’ll be forced to explain yourself so many times that you stop using your phone in front of assholes.

You will miss out on a job or two, but you’ll sleep better at night knowing that you can actually be off the clock and not expected to be checking in constantly.

You will hear over and over and over again the benefits of a smart phone until you finally give in so that everyone will finally shut up and stop caring what phone you have.

You’ll sincerely wonder if you’ll stop missing having less than you do now and you’ll realize how ridiculous and ungrateful that sounds.

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