31 apps and other personal reflections on my dumb-smartphone

Last post, I declared my love for my smartphone. We didn’t always have such a healthy, functional, and respectful relationship. In fact, it wasn’t until I set very firm boundaries that I learned to love, respect, and appreciate all the good my smartphone brings to my life: Turning my smartphone into a dumb phone remains a popular post. I’m glad I didn’t believe the lies, and there are a lot of lies; “you need social media,” “you need a smartphone,” “you need to be online,” lies, lies, lies. The truth is there are no rules, only consequences.

Early in my teens, naturally curious and deviant, I observed the adults to be full of lies. I found them pathetic; their lives dull and uninspiring. Not much of what they said ever added up to anything but half-truths at best. I vowed no matter what they said I would do exactly the opposite. I needed my life to turn out the opposite of the daily hell they seemed to be trekking through. Their passive misery bored me. I drowned out their noise with adolescence contempt and went about to find my own truth. I felt a strong conviction to know a thing or two for myself, no matter how long it took or how scary to walk the path less travelled was, not knowing the things that awaited on the other side of my longings.

So it was only natural once I noticed the then-new technologies— social media, smartphones, etc.— were demanding too much of myself and all of my time and attention that I went looking for my own answers. I was scared. The world and everyone around me were saying to go one way and I, motivated by what I felt was happening to me against my will by the new technologies of the time and inspired by others who also chose similarly, decided to go in the opposite direction. I was committed, in all areas of my life, to prove all things to myself. Looking back now, much older and wiser, I’m glad I chose the opposite of what the whole world said to do, with all my fears, uncertainties, and doubt, considering this and that, courageously giving up this and that, tinkering with different ways of being until I found one that works for me.

My dumb smartphone is still very smart and functional. There were times I seriously considered switching to a flip phone, go cold-turkey and be free of my smartphone addiction for once and all. But the idea of not having my Maps app to get around sounded miserable and unnecessarily sacrificial and I didn’t want to give up music on my commute either, life’s simple pleasure.

A couple weeks ago I counted the number of apps on my phone: 31 apps. I don’t know if that’s too little or average, or if it’s a lot. Email was not on the list, and I’m not on social media. It doesn’t matter. What matters to me, years of so much damn effort later, is to find out I don’t need to the world wide web on the go at all times, that a few apps would do and a smartphone can indeed be just a tool and not an attention-guzzling machine. All it took was a choice so I can find out for myself that I could do without the apps and things that stole too much of my time and attention back then.

Now I spend on average 2.4 hours a day on my phone. My most used app is Messages. I looked up these numbers for this post. I rarely look at my Screen Time to see how much time I spend on my phone because I know I don’t spend that much time on my phone: It’s boring! It’s the best phone a girl can have. It tells me how to get wherever I need to go then stays out of my mind so I can pay attention to whatever it is that I’m doing: What more can I ask for in a phone? Can it be inconvenient at times to not have access to Google to search up information on the go? Maybe in the beginning but life has adapted to my new normal. I am okay with not knowing. It’s just as normal to not have Google access on the go as it is to have it; it just takes getting used to. I shrug and go about my business. I talk to random people. I notice random things. I hear the birds chirping and the trees spring back to life. A child’s curious gaze. A smile. Strangers’ stories that will stay with me forever and those I will forget as soon as we politely say goodbye. Managing awkward moments without access to a quick glance at my phone, my digital pacifier, and I get used to it. The world getting smaller and smaller until it becomes just this moment in time, this restaurant, the drink and food in front of me, the person sitting across and we’re laughing, and what the people online are saying, doing, thinking is inaccessible, unnecessary, not important, and I never let it get in the way.

Until next time,

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