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Life Without A Smartphone
I have a party trick that I carry in my purse or my pocket, and no matter where I am, it gets a reaction from people every time.
It’s 2016, I’m 27, and I have a flip phone.
Those reactions vary. Most people are incredulous. “How do you manage?” they ask, as if living without a smart phone is a hardship I bear.
But I think people with smart phones bear the hardship. You feel a need to document your life for others instead of creating moments for yourself. You feel the pressure of creating a filtered version of yourself, driven by the deceptive need of being “connected.” Connected with what? The filtered version of someone else? If you have a question, you have to look it up that moment. If the person you’re with doesn’t know something, you need to show them the exact picture. You have to look good, sound smart, and be all-knowing about other people’s lives at all times. That sounds exhausting.
I enjoy social media. It has often allowed me to stay connected with people in meaningful ways. But I think my social life is better because of I don’t get constant updates of what everyone else is doing. It allows me to make better connections with people.
I’ve noticed an interesting trend lately when someone brings up something they recently did. “I just got back from vacation,” they say. If I say, “Yeah, I saw it on Facebook,” then that topic is done. They think 40 characters or a photo is worth a thousand words. But if I say, “You did? That’s awesome!”, then the other person actually tells me about their experience. And the story is better than the status every single time.
My flip phone simplifies my life. When I want to hang out with someone, I don’t take a selfie and send a Snapchat, “What are you doing?” I call or text. My phone doesn’t get video, so I do miss out on seeing those. My phone cannot send or receive emojiis. It turns them into rectangles. I don’t mind. Life is too short to decide whether or not to send a poop picture.
The five seconds or two minutes or twenty that I save every time I send a text because I don’t add emojiis or send a selfie or get distracted scrolling through Facebook or Twitter because I had a notification adds up to a lot of time. I have so many less distractions, and my life is richer because of it.
My phone is my alarm clock, so it is the first thing I look at in the morning, but I don’t check to see what everyone else is doing before I get out of bed. I seize the day before I seize my social network updates. This freedom expands into every part of my life. I never stop walking in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture of the sky or an interesting building or a dog on a bike (I’ve seen this. It’s a memory, not a picture. And I don’t care if no one believes me. Other people’s validation is not the point of making memories.)
I will never take a picture of food instead of just enjoying it and the company of the person I am with. I never have my phone on the table. Unless I am trying to solve a where-are-you or what-are-you-doing or I-need-advice problem, I am not texting. I am a better talker than I am a listener, and I’m trying to listen more. A smartphone is the anti-Christ of listening, and I’m a better person because I don’t have one.
A few people act like owning a flip phone is dangerous to my physical person. “How do you get places without GPS? What happens to you if you get lost?” I look at a map and plan my route. I actually get to know a new place I’m traveling in instead of letting a machine dictate the shortest, quickest route. Sometimes I take a wrong turn. Honestly, I’ve never had an awesome experience from navigating on my own. Most of the time it’s super annoying, and I start wishing I had a metallic voice telling me where to turn. Sometimes it’s unnerving to be in a new place and feel vulnerable. When I am in a group of people, I often rely on their smart phones to help me. But I’ve also had GPS systems be wrong or someone else’s smart phone be dead, and then I am grateful I know how to navigate. Even if my wrong turn happened in a different city, the lessons you learn from relying on yourself transfer to new cities and new situations.
I love my flip phone because I hate how smart phones corrupt experiences. I’ve gone to weddings where people who haven’t seen in each other in years sat around a table and looked at their phones. I’ve had evenings ruined because people are looking for the next cooler thing online instead of making their own nights better. I’ve had my view at a concert blocked by a cell phone as someone recorded it instead of lived it. Who watches those dark, tinny-sounding videos anyway?
My flip phone life started as a financial decision. I could not afford to buy a smart phone and the plan that comes with it. I still feel abhorrence toward the idea that I pay $200 a month for Internet on my phone and the ability to take photos when I already have a nice camera and I pay for wireless Internet, but now it’s less about the money and more about the freedom.
One of the most common reactions I get when people see my phone is a strange wistfulness. “I wish I didn’t have a smart phone. I’m always checking my work email.” “I wish I could do that. I’m tired of the distraction.” “I wish I wasn’t always looking at my phone. It’s a bad example for my kids.”
I wish more people quit living their lives on their phones and lived them in real time and space. We would have better road trips and weddings and random Tuesday nights with friends or family.
Quit watching someone else’s highlight reel and live your own highlights – and your lows and your mediocres.
Otherwise life isn’t worth living. It’s just a bunch of poop emojiis.
Kylie Kinley is a creative writer and the communications manager for the Nebraska Historical Society. And in case you didn't notice, she loves people, authentic experiences, and Nebraska even more than you love your iPhone 7.
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