With the constant distractions imposed by smartphones, which can sometimes seem like an added limb, it can seem tempting to ditch your own and go for a low-tech flip phone instead. A small but powerful group of people actually did it: thousands of people congregate in Internet forums dedicated to “digital minimalism“and”stupid phones. ”
However, lives without a smartphone do not usually result from a quest for mindfulness. They are more likely a necessity due to limited technical knowledge or limited budgets: people over 65, those with low incomes, and those with a high school diploma or less are among the least likely to have a. smartphone, according to 2021 data from the Pew Research Group.
Yet some have converted primarily for their own well-being. Dumb phones allow users to “restore the agency” and can “be used to complete life and not to capture our attention”, some advocates Claim. And in recent years, companies may have caught the rare but fervent desire for simpler mobile gadgets. For example, Nokia released a series of flip phone redesigns, like the redesigned 2720 model which arrival in US stores in May. In 2018, the company announced the “Return of the Icon” – an accelerated version of the 1996 banana-like slide phone. made famous through The matrix.
Saul Pwanson, 44, is a software engineer who longs for an open-source smartphone he can fix himself, though they’re hard to catch and can come with waiting lists of years to come. In the meantime, he got rid of his iPhone and now plays sports a flip phone that he says made his life easier. “I wasn’t really addicted to my phone, but there’s a kind of compulsion when you have everything on your phone,” he says. “I understand that there is nothing more I can do with [my flip phone], and people can’t push me to do anything more.
The cost of convenience
It turns out that common frustrations with high tech phones, including frequent notifications, can have tangible consequences on our health. For example, researchers have found that addiction to smartphones can increase the risk anxiety and depression in young people, disturb the sleep cycle, and even reduce cognitive ability.
Although we feel bad, many people continue to use them throughout the day, probably because the design patterns of users make us desperate for the dopamine boosts they bring, a fact that companies often use to their advantage. These devices can also alter our brains in slightly similar ways. ways of cocaine: MRI scans of people addicted to smartphones have revealed a decrease in gray matter, which helps us process information, in several crucial areas of the brain associated with functions such as emotional regulation and decision-making, according to one. June 2020 study Posted in Addictive behaviors.
And, of course, smartphones spoil real social interactions. Studies have shown that they were probably reduce smiles between strangers, distract parents to connect with their children and, more broadly, decrease the benefits to go out with friends and family. In 2015, nearly 90 percent of people said they used their phones during their most recent social event, Pew find.
Take the plunge
Considering the many drawbacks associated with fancy phones, could simpler phones with fewer intrusive notifications actually improve our mental and physical health? It probably depends on individual characteristics, like your age and the specific outcome you’re looking for, says Sarah Pressman, a wellness scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who has studied the effects of cellphones on social interactions and people. stress levels.
For example, a person in their twenties (the group with the upper percentage of smartphone ownership) with a single Nokia can feel left out watching the rest of their friends scroll on their most luxurious devices. But the The change could pay off for someone seeking new companions or a more conscious existence, Pressman says. “The biggest benefit of switching to another smartphone is forcing you to be in the moment, socialize, and enjoy what you’re doing. “
Ian Medeiros, 27, PhD. a student in the biology department at Duke University, has never owned anything but flip phones and says he often accidentally leaves his at home – but has no problem without it. When you hook up with friends, its limited functionality can actually turn out to be a good thing. “It’s a little harder to text, so I’m not inclined to text when I’m sitting with people in a bar or something,” he says. “I feel like it helps me to be a little more present in social situations. “
Smartphones can also inhibit the fleeting – but meaningful – relationships we develop with others. Despite the fact that brief interactions with strangers have been shown to be beneficial for our emotional well-being, Technology like mobile ordering continues to reduce quick conversations during grocery shopping and coffee shopping, says Kostadin Kushlev, a behavior specialist at Georgetown University.
Less technological devices could also allow us to control when we encounter push notifications, which affect negatively task performance and concentration. Medeiros only uses Twitter at night via his laptop, avoid annoying buzzes throughout the day when gaining a new follower or retweets. It’s a technique somewhat similar to spacing and “grouping” notifications on smartphones, which Kushlev has find can reduce stress in users.
The scraps of digital minimalism
Yet flip phones also present obvious pitfalls. As companies continue to unveil impressive smartphone cameras, neither Pwanson nor Medeiros are fans of the relatively crass nature of their devices. option. And while that may encourage people to put their phones away with friends, Pwanson says the T9 keyboard makes texting “painful”.
When it comes to travel, flip phones present an obvious challenge: users have to move around the world without navigation apps like Google Maps, or use slow loading, simplified alternatives. Some have bought GPS devices for their cars, or even taught themselves how to use old fashioned physical cards.
And there is the issue of outsourcing. Medeiros says he relied on his girlfriend’s smartphone for directions when in an unfamiliar town. Likewise, hours of phone browsing could easily be replaced by equivalent time spent on a computer, which still counts as screen time.
This brings up an interesting point: are flip phone followers technically using smartphones (albeit indirectly) to ask friends or family to do certain tasks for them? This possibility is not lost on Edward Tenner, a historian who has spent decades writing about the drawbacks and unintended consequences of changing technologies. He has a few friends who have resisted buying any type of cell phone, but are asking their social circle for application-based support. “They don’t really avoid this system – they just ask other people to help them,” Tenner explains.
How harmful are smartphones really?
While addiction can clearly inflict health risks that flip phones could mitigate, moderate smartphone use does confer some benefits. Studies have shown that smartphones can (paradoxically) both cause stress and deny. Smartphones offer a range of tools to help users overcome distress, including mental health apps like Headspace that can provide moderate improved well-being and are generally cheaper and more accessible as therapy. With their superior functionality, smartphones also make it easier to connect with friends or search online in difficult situations.
The exchange of devices quickly eliminates these coping mechanisms. Stopping cold turkey, it seems, has its drawbacks: stopping push notifications altogether, for example, can do people feel anxious and lonely. “If I’m used to being able to get any source of information, help, or support in the blink of an eye, and suddenly I can’t, you’ve removed a source of social support – and we know it’s harmful, ”Pressman says.
While it is clear that frequent texting and using apps can interfere with our face-to-face discussions, some solo smartphone use does not appear in fact significantly affect well-being. And every hangout riddled with smartphones is unlikely to deal a huge blow to our health, Kushlev says. Rather, it is that these events – and the toll they inflict on us – can snowball over time. The difference between regulated and beneficial phone use and potentially risky habits probably depends on individual factors like age and gender, adds Kushley, although scientists do not fully understand how these variables interact. Certain personality traits it seems to predict problematic smartphone use, such as above average neurosis and difficulty regulating emotions
Like any addiction, it’s possible treat intensive use of the smartphone that interferes with people’s daily lives. As long as users can moderate themselves, the possible downsides of smartphones should be weighed against the pros, Tenner says. “My feeling is that it’s really unhealthy for people to think of most technologies as inherently good or bad. For me, the main thing is to make technology your tool, rather than the other way around. “