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Giving Up Your Smartphone Won’t Bring You A Simpler Life

As we lament our screen-based lives, the fix is in your attitude, not your hardware.

Giving Up Your Smartphone Won’t Bring You A Simpler Life
[Top Photo: Adam Hester/Getty Images]

At first glance, giving up a smartphone for an ageing, single-use flip phone can seem like a noble grasp at simpler times, or a rejection of modern attention-grabbing technology. It might be viewed as a purer way of life, like shooting film, or buying paper books from a real bookstore.

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Recently, The Atlantic’s “If Our Bodies Could Talk” series, asked if a person can live in modern-day New York without a smartphone:

But all you’re doing is replacing an app with a hardware device. The smartphone in your pocket is no more a “phone” than it is a drumkit or a VCR, even though it can be both of those things. It’s a computer that can mimic pretty much any specialist gadget from the last half century, and in many cases do it better. You can sign a contract and fax (fax!) it to a landlord right from your phone.

Soloviova Liudmyla via Shutterstock

Imagine if we replaced every app from our smartphone with a physical widget. We’d have to carry a camera, an agenda or FiloFax, a Walkman or iPod, a miniature TV, plus a laptop computer with a web browser. And that’s just the apps that come built in. Our short replacement cycle for cell phones might be environmentally irresponsible, but so is buying or charging batteries for all that extra hardware. And by using separate devices we lose much of the magic of a smartphone, which is great at connecting these functions together. Try Instagramming a picture from your DSLR camera and you’ll see what I mean.

I’d argue that most of us have given up “phones” already. Who makes personal phone calls any more? Not many of us. In fact Judith Goudsmit, the subject of this short film, uses her flip phone just like any of us uses their iPhone. She’s a texter, communicating via SMS, which is functionally the same as using WhatsApp or iMessage, only with fewer emoticons.

The answer to excessive gadget use? Less gadget use. That’s it. Don’t replace your modern “phone” with an old phone, hoping for a simpler life. You’ll just end up texting all the time instead of tweeting.

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As the BBC kids’ TV show Why Don’t You? used to ask: “Why don’t you just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead??

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About the author

Previously found writing at Wired.com, Cult of Mac and Straight No filter.

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