a close up photo of a flip phone keypad

I Broke Up With My Smartphone

A young writer shares how liberating switching to a "dumb phone" can be

Tech and the online worldMental health and wellbeing
By VoiceBox ·

Radical

Radical is a nonbinary writer, content creator and social media manager with a passion for individual growth, alternative love and social justice. They travel part-time in their van, and they are a strong proponent for inclusive and diverse education and communal healing. Follow them on Instagram for more content like this! @rewilding.radical

I Broke Up With My Smartphone

On February 3rd, 2022, I popped the SIM card out of my perfectly functional iPhone XR and into an AT&T flip phone. Not only was this the first time I had wiped my iPhone clean from all my memories without the promise of backing up my stories onto a new phone, it happened to be the day I turned 22. This is the story of my breakup with my smartphone, and why it was one of the best–and kindest–decisions I have ever made for myself. If you’re thinking about breaking up with your smartphone, you’re in the right place! 

Why I Broke Up With My Smartphone 

For years, I was plagued by social media addiction, taking selfies of every outfit and makeup look, posting every mildly interesting thought I had on my Instagram story, frantically texting friends when I needed to get something off my chest (or, honestly, tell them about any old shift in my emotions throughout the day). Don't get me wrong, my full-time travel and life of self-discovery looked glamorous online, but the depressing reality was a blurry photo of a tired me, couch-locked, insistent on checking if my phone had a new notification every two minutes. 

I used to experience extreme anxiety when my phone battery would die while I was without a charger, and whenever someone took my phone out of my hands, I literally felt like a piece of me was missing. Logically, I knew that the world would carry on even if I didn't look at my phone for an hour (or two, or three). Emotionally, however, my smartphone had a vice grip on my attention, it had monopolized control over my social life, and it was the source of an insatiable need (disguised as desire) to engage with the “digital world.” Since starting college, I had been considering ditching my smartphone and switching to a “dumb phone,” but I was so enthralled with the seeming social utopia that was Instagram that I never dared take the leap. 

Fast forward to my fourth year of university and you get a clear photo of a version of me, where I am taking a gap year to discover and develop myself. I have wiped my Facebook clean of content, deleted my Instagram account, downgraded to a flip phone, and I've stopped taking pictures of literally everything. I am smiling. This attempt to reconnect with the real world and with myself is only just the beginning. It feels like it’s going to be wildly transformative. Read on to explore the first week of my life living with a flip phone, and discover all the experiences that lie below such a radical change! 

Day One 

This is it: day one without a smartphone. I started the morning with my usual routine of checking, reading and clearing all the notifications that had popped up on my iPhone overnight. When a knock at the door occurred, signaling the delivery of my flip phone, I jumped off the couch and raced to unwrap the package I had ordered, like a 6-year-old on Christmas morning. I spent the next 6 hours, on and off, manually adding contacts to my new phone. I immediately cleaned, photographed and listed my iPhone XR on Craigslist to get it off my hands and off my mind.

This first day excited me, in a sort of melancholy way. Not only was I mourning the loss of my social media accounts, but I was mentally preparing for the loss of many convenient apps that I had used to make my life easier for years on end. However, I knew I had made the right choice when I woke up the next morning having rested well and without the burning desire to check all my notifications. I simply looked for missed texts and calls before moving on with my morning: coffee, breakfast, brush teeth, go to work. 

Day Two 

Day two was significantly easier than day one. I won't deny it, I did often feel a phantom pull of my hand or my gaze towards the screen of my deactivated iPhone sitting on the coffee table. After only a couple of hours, much to my surprise, my brain adjusted to the new reality that my phone would no longer be constantly pinging me and demanding my attention. This led to a wonderful sense of peace that I had pursued but somehow didn't expect. 

Not only did I have more time to peruse parts of the internet and of life that I was genuinely curious about, but I had given myself the opportunity to choose and accept a newfound serenity in my life. I was no longer multitasking. I was going about daily tasks almost mindfully, without the rush of a capitalist workday. 

I won't sit here and tell you that getting rid of my smartphone single-handedly changed my life, because that's simply not true, but I will wholeheartedly claim that simplifying your life in ways that serve you is a radical act of self-love. 

Day Three 

By day three I could see the progress I was making in my reading: ripping through my current choice literature, “The Body Keeps The Score,” by Bessel van der Kolk. Although this is an intense read, it kept me occupied through the feelings of isolation and boredom I felt while going about my normal life without social media. This isn't specifically tied to the recent casting away of my smartphone, but exacerbated by living in a new town and having been recently isolated due to a mild case of COVID-19. 

At this point, I also noticed my anxiety spiking in ways I hadn’t previously observed, probably because I was constantly assuaging my nerves with mindless scrolling or compulsive texting. I was walking home from a friend’s place and found myself panicking because I didn’t have anything to do with my hands. Luckily, the anxiety subsided after about 20 minutes, and I was grateful to pick up my book when I got home. 

Week Two 

Two whole weeks have elapsed since I got rid of my iPhone and it has been so strange realizing how chained I had been to my smartphone. I was constantly clinging to the expensive glass screen like it was going to be the thing that saved me if the world fell to pieces, but I’ve realized

that the world will go on even after the internet collapses and we’re living in a post-Instagram apocalypse. It sounds silly, but the hold that the internet has on our brains is literally addictive. 

I’m eternally grateful I made the switch. I have been more engaged in life, more productive, more connected to my emotions and the mood swings and energetic shifts of day-to-day life. I am more present when I spend time with people I love, and I am more equipped to hold boundaries with myself. I’ve been connecting with people who make me feel valuable, worthy, and enough, and I’ve been ending relationships with people whom I feel drain me. I am prioritizing myself, putting on real clothes in the morning, and I’m no longer doom-scrolling and ignoring the fact that I really need to brush my teeth and take a shower (thank god). 

The Conclusion? Worth It, 100%. 

Breaking up with my smartphone was the kindest thing I could have done for myself during this chapter of my life, and while it probably won’t be a forever decision, it’s more than enough for now. In fact, it’s doing more than sufficing – choosing to move away from something so convenient has allowed me to reconnect with reality outside the metaverse. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

If you’re thinking about breaking up with your smartphone, let us know! We’d love to help you work on solutions to navigating without a smartphone and connecting with the online world without a supercomputer in your pocket. 

For more, follow @rewilding.radical on Instagram and check out their blog on Medium!

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