Going Analog Sidequest: Ditching the Smartphone Part 2: Dumbphone’d and Data-Free

phone

I’ve had my “dumbphone” for about week, week and a half, and already I’m noticing big differences in my day-to-day. And not in the way that folks like this talk about going smartphoneless for a few days and then document their existential crisis about it for pageviews.

I have an LG Xpression 2 – a dumbphone with a QWERTY keyboard and extremely rudimentary browser, so it could be dumber. A number of the apps, like mobile email and GPS navigation, don’t work for some reason (the phone is only 2 years old, so they should still be supported) but I’m OK with this because it means that it’s only really good for a few things: calling, texting, and alarms.

I’ve had to make a few adjustments in how I do things. Once, when I missed my bus and needed to call an Uber to make it to work on time, I had to hoof it over to a Starbucks for their wifi and use the old smartphone to do it. (I use it like a tiny tablet now.) When I didn’t see where the Uber driver had parked, I couldn’t call or text him from the device that I booked him with! It was a reminder not of what I’d given up, but how fragile our reliance on smartphone technology really is. What if my smartphone had simply been dead, and it was 11 at night instead of 8 in the morning, and I’d found myself stranded in an unfamiliar part of town? You can borrow someone else’s phone to make a call or send a text, but you can’t yet borrow their phone to schedule an Uber pickup – their account is tied in with their credit card, and I doubt a stranger is going to let you do anything on their phone besides make an emergency call anyways.

So when I caught the bus on the way home, I grabbed a folded paper schedule from behind the driver, and stuck it in my bag. The first step to dealing with a missed bus is to not miss the bus. I also made a mental note to keep the number of a yellow cab company in my phone, as well as written down in my traveler’s notebook. Not that I have to worry about the dumbphone ever dying when I need it most (the thing lasts about 2.5 days on a single charge), but if I lose it, or something else happens, I don’t want to be left stranded.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is how much better at casual conversation with strangers I am – or maybe I was previously pretty good at it, but never created space for it to happen because I always had my nose buried in a screen. The fact that a mere phone could have prevented me from realizing this latent ability just proves my point about the asininity of smartphones’ ubiquity even more.

I’ve had several very pleasant conversations with strangers since this development. One of them was with a young man about the election while at the bus stop; I found out that he’d just gotten into a car accident recently, that he preferred pot to alcohol, and was looking for a job, especially now that he had to pay for a mechanic. He found out that I recently started working at Whole Foods, that my partner worked in a Walmart distribution warehouse once upon a time (which did a number on his body), that I was a conscientious objector to the entire presidential election, and that I’d missed my bus.

There are a lot more very small moments like that in my life now. I’m starting to call it “breathing room”, because it really is. I’m giving myself permission to sit and look at things – to constantly reattune myself with my sensory environment, to familiarize myself with the minutiae of its patterns and magical little details – instead of feel the need to disappear the instant my attention grows the slightest bit diffuse.

In this way I’m reclaiming my time. My days seem to last just a little bit longer than they used to, which has always been one of my biggest gripes about the encroachment of technology on our lives. Moreover, as we’re encouraged to share every little facet of our day (for what? likes and followers?), we become less active participants in our own lives and more passive spectators, like paparazzi always on the lookout for a juicy story, and our online “presences” become more like our very own curated tabloid magazines. It’s all a kind of social rat race.

So for those of you interested in ditching the smartphone, a few things I’ve re-learned in my short time using one:

  • Make plans, make contingency plans, and have necessary documentation with you. This includes written directions to where you’re going, phone numbers for things like yellow cab companies, bus maps and schedules, and so on.
  • Check the weather before you leave.
  • Carry a book with you.
  • Carry a pen and pad with you.
  • Leave early and don’t be afraid to get a little turned around.
  • Have patience.
Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Going Analog Sidequest: Ditching the Smartphone Part 2: Dumbphone’d and Data-Free

  1. Enjoying your blog–even as a non-millennial and two-time parent. You were able to get a less-expensive, non-contract deal for your dumb phone, I imagine? I’ll switch back to dumb phones again (I’ve gone smart phone, to D.P. and eventually back to S.P. again over 10+ years), but one thing I’ll miss is being able to take quick pics of my kids when they do something silly. But then, I won’t miss having to deal with too many pics either. Just a thought. -zero-waste mom

    Like

    • Thank you, Kelley!

      I haven’t actually changed my plan because I’m still part of my father’s family plan and he forgets to look into that sort of thing – it also might wind up being more expensive to take me off the bundle everyone else is part of. However, going data-free for a single payer is obviously a cheaper option, and there are alternative carriers who charge practically nothing for a simple talk-and-text plan if you have a compatible phone, like FreedomPop.

      As for pictures, I totally understand. I plan on getting a small point-and-shoot, actually, for just that purpose. Another device doesn’t seem very zero-waste at first, but not having so much functionality in a single device avoids the problems inherent in having a computer in your pocket! Namely, the individual devices themselves are much more durable, easier to fix if something goes wrong, and it encourages mindfulness: every time you bring a device with you, a choice is made about what you plan to do and what your priorities will be. If I choose to bring my camera, I’m making the conscious decision to take pictures, and take good ones. If I leave it at home, then I’ve decided that there are other things I’d rather do for that outing. You follow?

      Like

Comments are closed.