Author Topic: Ditch your smartphone for 90 days  (Read 420 times)

El_Viajero

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Ditch your smartphone for 90 days
« on: June 09, 2019, 02:46:55 PM »
NOTE: This thread's topic is a no-smartphone challenge. It's not a place to debate whether one should or shouldn't use a smartphone or discuss positive ways to modify one's smartphone use. Those are subjects for spirited and healthy debate, but they're better discussed elsewhere.

UPDATE: Reasons for ditching a smartphone for a feature phone instead of just modifying how one uses a smartphone are provided here and here. For a broader analysis of the benefits of feature phones and the pitfalls of smartphones, I also highly recommend this old post and, for that matter, the thread in which it is found.
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The title says it all. Frankly, I'm surprised someone hasn't proposed this one before! I did a search specific to "Throw Down the Gauntlet" with "smartphone" in the subject line, and there was just one from three years ago that wasn't really presented as a challenge. It was just someone proclaiming that they were going smartphone-free.

So now I'm inviting you all to join me on this journey! 30 to 60 days seems too easy. 90 days will be a good benchmark for knowing whether you can handle the dumbphone life, methinks.

Full disclaimer: I've already got a head start. I stopped using Facebook 7 years ago. I stopped using Twitter last year. The only social media site I use is LinkedIn, and that's for professional reasons. I don't have the app on my phone, and it's not a time suck for me at all. I also disabled my phone's browser and email app a couple of months ago, so my smartphone use has been reduced to pure utilities: checking weather, banking, choosing music to listen to, GPS/maps, and taking pictures. Also, calling and texting. Duh.

I think I'm ready for this. I mean, I didn't have a smartphone until 2011 or so (with the exception of a company Blackberry in 2007... hated that thing), and life was pretty good back then! How hard can this really be?

In anticipation of getting a dumbphone, I've killed every app on my current Android model except for calls and texts. I also ordered the most basic dumbphone I could find ($50) that also won't be obsolete in a year since it runs on LTE instead of the old CDMA or GSM networks. In addition, I bought a used pocket-sized digital camera to pack along for those times I'll actually want to take pictures.

Who's in? I trust that getting rid of our smartphones will help us be more present, enjoy better sleep, and devote more time to the things in life that we actually want to be doing! Depending on your current phone plan/expenses, it could also save you some serious money. In my case, the cost savings will be negligible, so that's not my primary motivation. Assuming things go well after 90 days, I'll sell my current smartphone. The profit will easily cover the total cost of the dumbphone plus the little used camera that I got. Net hardware cost: $0.00.

My new phone arrives this week. As soon as I get my number ported over, the adventures begin! Let me know if you'll be along for the ride.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2019, 09:53:20 AM by El_Viajero »

Syonyk

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Re: Ditch your smartphone for 90 days
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2019, 04:41:32 PM »
Posting to follow, but also for some debate.

I've taken largely the same steps you have with regards to smartphones - no social media, browser is disabled about half the time, most of the apps don't have cell connectivity enabled, etc.  It's not quite a dumbphone, but it's close in terms of distraction potential.

I've debated going with a non-smartphone, but other than battery life and some robustness, I'm not convinced it makes that much of a difference.

For me, the balance comes down to "Keep the smartphone, but don't use it for that much."  There are a number of apps I use that are legitimately useful and aren't available on a dumbphone in any form.  Access to a building I frequent is through an app (not a decision I made, but it's the decision the people who control access made), a hyper-local weather app is actually creepily good ("Rain starting in 20 minutes" level good - and it's right more often than not), and a few chat programs that I use.  Hangouts, in particular, is how my wife and I talk, because it works on all my devices (if I'm in my office or out and about, it's the same way to communicate with me, and I can use it in places where I don't have my phone).  I've also got Uber/Lyft that I use on occasion to to/from the airport, and (silly though it is sometimes) the iRobot app to launch the Roomba on a tour of the house at times.  Plus my drone console (I do some drone photography for people locally).  And, it's a good camera.

I could replace much of this functionality with a few other devices, but I don't see the gains over just restricting what my phone can do (which you've already done), and just using it less.  It's entirely possible to have control over your device, though the default certainly isn't that way.

You list as the goals/expectations, "being more present, enjoying better sleep, and devoting more time to the things in life we actually want to be doing" - is there a reason your current restrictions on the phone don't allow you to accomplish this?  Put the phone on silent or leave it in your car if you're out being social (I actually leave my phone in the car regularly), charge it in another room from your bed (mine typically charges in the kitchen, and I have the time-based controls set up so it's genuinely irritating to use in the hours before bed or the early morning), and leave it in the house if you're working around the property.

What do you expect to gain going from a severely-neutered smartphone to a device with less capability?  I'm genuinely curious, as my thoughts along the exact same line haven't led me to dump the smartphone yet.  I'm certainly down the same path at you, and have written somewhat extensively about how hostile smartphones are to humans, but it's mostly in how they're used/set up by default - I don't think it's innate to the particular technology.

El_Viajero

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Re: Ditch your smartphone for 90 days
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2019, 06:25:39 PM »
What do you expect to gain going from a severely-neutered smartphone to a device with less capability?  I'm genuinely curious, as my thoughts along the exact same line haven't led me to dump the smartphone yet.  I'm certainly down the same path at you, and have written somewhat extensively about how hostile smartphones are to humans, but it's mostly in how they're used/set up by default - I don't think it's innate to the particular technology.

This is very fair, and I anticipated some responses along these lines. Here are my reasons for seeking complete abstinence:

Temptation: I havenít been perfect in my browser and email abstinence. I reinstalled them a few times to perform a single specific task. Crazily enough, I once again went down the rabbit hole of mindlessly looking up stuff and checking email unnecessarily. I quickly disabled the apps once again when I realized what was happening. But it still happened. Others probably have more willpower than I do. This sort of thing will inevitably keep happening as I am a fallible human who is dazzled by this little gadget.

Safety: This also speaks to willpower. I use Spotify when Iím driving, which is cool; however, I have a hard time not screwing around with it and changing the music. This is dangerous, folks. Iím ashamed to admit it, but itís true. It endangers me and everyone else on the road. For some reason, I almost never have this problem with texting, but I do for music. Post-smartphone, I plan to put my tunes on a USB stick and put that in the car stereo. The only thing Iíll be able to do is push a single button to skip tracks Ė itís like bumping the AC up a notch in terms of the attention required.

I feel stupid: Interestingly, I only started using my phoneís GPS features a couple of years ago, although Iíve really started relying on them over the last few months. Every time I go somewhere new and navigate there via GPS, I get this bizarre feeling that I donít truly know where I am. In the past, I looked up directions, studied a map a bit, and got a feel for where I was headed. I feel like thereís a loss of control when I just mindlessly do what the robot lady says. Itís hard to describe, but itís like Iím losing my sense of direction or something. Also: Google Maps can be a bigger time suck than people realize, especially if youíre a geography junkie like me.

Psychology: I donít know how to explain this, but thereís something about the smartphone thatís just mesmerizing. Even when I donít have anything to do on it, I feel compelled to pick it up and justÖ do anything. Iíll scroll through photos Iíve already taken, browse bands and stuff on Spotify, check the weather for places I traveled to 5 years ago. This magical little box is simply captivating, and I suppose thatís how it was designed to be. Of course, all of this may speak more to a personal character flaw/weakness than the device itself, but itís my legitimate experience. I never felt like this when I just had a plain Jane flip phone. To combat this issue, the ďno surfĒ community (Google it on your smartphone, peeps) suggests converting your phoneís display to grayscale, but this didnít work for me. I changed it back right away! I couldnít handle it!

Admittedly superficial reasons:

Itís big: Smartphones are just really stinking huge these days, and Iím a phone-in-pocket sort of person. I miss the compact size of the flip phone.

Emojis are stupid: My new flip phone wonít support them, so I wonít have to become agitated when I witness otherwise intelligent people replacing perfectly good English words with cretinous little illustrations.


Telecaster

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Re: Ditch your smartphone for 90 days
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2019, 06:34:20 PM »
I rely on my smartphone for work.  I need to get texts, emails, calendar, navigation, etc.  My phone does not ring or announce notifications from 9pm to 8am.  I do not have Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media apps on my phone.  Seems to work. 

Syonyk

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Re: Ditch your smartphone for 90 days
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2019, 08:31:55 PM »
This is very fair, and I anticipated some responses along these lines. Here are my reasons for seeking complete abstinence:

Reasonable enough responses.  I'm certainly not one to argue with ripping out the problem by the roots.

Quote
Interestingly, I only started using my phoneís GPS features a couple of years ago, although Iíve really started relying on them over the last few months. Every time I go somewhere new and navigate there via GPS, I get this bizarre feeling that I donít truly know where I am. In the past, I looked up directions, studied a map a bit, and got a feel for where I was headed.

So... just do that?  I don't use GPS nav.  I use Google Maps to look at where I'm going, then drive myself there.  Frequently, returning from places, I don't bother - I just point myself "in the general direction of home" and work it out as I go.

Quote
To combat this issue, the ďno surfĒ community (Google it on your smartphone, peeps) suggests converting your phoneís display to grayscale, but this didnít work for me. I changed it back right away! I couldnít handle it!

Oh, I like greyscale. :)  I have it set up to quickly toggle if I actually need color, but I mostly leave it in greyscale.

Sounds well enough reasoned - good luck!

El_Viajero

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Re: Ditch your smartphone for 90 days
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2019, 06:59:38 AM »
I'll add one more reason to the list: Lack of trust

My Android phone opts me into a lot of uncomfortable and ethically dubious scenarios every time I power it on. One example: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/aug/13/google-location-tracking-android-iphone-mobile

I can control and/or opt out of some of these arrangements, but others are difficult to avoid. There may even be others lurking deep within my phone's innards that I don't know about or that I lack the technical expertise to understand. In short, I don't believe my device or the people who built it necessarily have my best interests at heart. They seem to be tracking my behavior in hidden and insidious ways, but to what end? Targeted advertising and improvements to user experience design? If that's all it is Ė and frankly, the targeted advertising thing is awful enough Ė why are they (the creators) so equivocal about it?

Call me paranoid if you want, but it's a fact that smartphones are logging the minutiae of our everyday actions. I'm not into that. I don't really trust our Silicon Valley overlords.

El_Viajero

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Re: Ditch your smartphone for 90 days
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2019, 09:04:28 AM »
Report from 5 days in:

Nobody has decided to join me on this one, but it looks like some folks may be following. As such, here are my initial observations after receiving my flip phone a few days ago.

Before reading this, it's worth bearing in mind that I am someone who has already drastically reduced his smartphone usage/dependency and whittled down my apps to what are basically just utilities: calls, texts, banking, music, and maps. No browsing or social media or other annoyances. Ok, with that being said, here goes:

1. Anxiety. My phone arrived Thursday evening, and I powered it on and ported my number over. All that night, I felt very anxious. I had a hard time sleeping and woke up several times. I was worried about going out into the world without a smartphone. This was a feeling I absolutely did not anticipate given that I had prepared myself for not having one. What if someone texted me a link? What if I couldn't see an emoji? What if I was driving and got lost and needed GPS? What if what if what if what if... Looking back, the fact that I had this experience tells me that I'd become far more dependent on the smartphone than I ever realized. Crazy stuff.

2. FOMO. I almost never use group texting, but someone put me on a group text the first day I went out into the world with my dumbphone. It was weird. I knew it was a group text, but I could only respond to senders in individual threads. Ultimately, it was no big deal, but it made me start worrying I was missing out on the great experience of group texting. Also, emojis: some appear on my phone but others just show up as little boxes. I began to feel anxious about not seeing these things, which is... silly.

3. Furiously searching for alternatives. Given all the FOMO, I started researching dumbphones that also support group texts. They also needed to be LTE phones, and I needed it to be unlocked since there's no way in hell I'm paying for a standard Verizon or AT&T plan or whatever. I found one that costs $100 and also has a browser. This gave me some relief as I realized it might be nice to have the browser, just in case. Then I realized that I was searching for something to save me from my own experiment because I was scared. Once again, I'm more attached to/dependent upon my old smartphone than I realized.

4. Feeling self-conscious. I don't like taking my phone out in public. I'm worried someone will see me with it and comment on it and I'll have to explain myself. I've been sort of hesitant to be seen with it.

5. Little need to take it out. On the other hand, since the phone does less than a smartphone, there's little reason to take it out in public anyway.

6. I keep looking at it. I keep checking the phone expecting it to do something. It doesn't, obviously. So weird.

7. Texting takes a long time. The flip phone has a T9-like system for predictive text, but it still takes longer to type out a message than with a QWERTY keyboard. One thing that the smartphone has done to us is it has created a text-first, call-maybe paradigm. It's normal for people to send long, rambling texts on a smartphone. On a flip phone, this is hard. I was trying to communicate with multiple people for a backpacking meetup that I'm hosting, and it just took forever over text messages; therefore...

8. I started calling people. Yep, when it took forever to text, I just dialed some numbers and spoke to people using my actual voice. Novel, right? I was able to organize my meetup really quickly this way Ė more quickly than if I'd been texting on a QWERTY keyboard, honestly. I hereby vow to use my phone for calling more often than texting, especially if it looks like I'm getting into some sort of extended SMS convo. I feel like my friends and family will appreciate the call since nobody really does that anymore.

9. Lack of GPS is no biggie. So far, so good. I only needed to look up directions twice, and I just did it before leaving the house... you know, like we used to do way back in 2012.

10. I sent pictures to my family. And I did it at the end of the day. My mom wanted pictures of my family from father's day weekend, and I'd taken some with my pocket point-and-shoot camera. I attached the pictures to an email and sent her a nice little message, all without distracting myself DURING the moments I was capturing so that I could text the pictures to my parents. I think this is a positive change.

Conclusions thus far: I was way more dependent upon my smartphone than I realized. I thought this would be easier. Also, smartphones have totally transformed the way I engage in casual communications without my really realizing it (see text-first observations above). I anticipate actually calling people more often and speaking with them instead of just texting. This should be a good thing. I also anticipate being more mindful about picture-taking and not necessarily needing to memorialize a moment and withdraw from the world to instantly share it with someone. This, too, is good.

I am still self-conscious about my phone and don't like taking it out in public. At some point, somebody at my coworking space is going to say something about it, and I'll have to come up with something to say. Ugh. It's weird that I feel this way since I'm not at all self-conscious about my other un-consumerist oddities. Smartphones, it seems, are indeed the quintessential accessory of the masses.