Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Living with a phone from the Stone Age

From time to time, I've noticed conversations on social media where people lament how dependent they are on smartphones. These people ask for advice as they wonder if it's possible to ditch the smartphone and use a plain ol' no-frills cell phone to call and text.

I really want to do this, but is it even possible? How do I live without a smarphone? is a common refrain I've seen.

As someone who has never owned a smartphone, I'd like to offer a little insight into the world of "dumb phones." If you've ever considered ditching the smartphone, I think it'd be good for you to know what you are getting yourself into.

First off, to answer the pressing question: YES! 
It is completely possible to live without a smartphone. In the eight or so years since I got my first cell phone, I've only owned a Stone Age phone. And I'm not just surviving in a drab existence, either. While owning my Stone Age phone, I somehow managed to cultivate friendships. fall in love, get married, obtain a college degree, have kids, and grow as a writer. Yes, the culture has changed a lot in the past couple years since I've done all these things, so perhaps you'd argue that in the year 2019, it is necessary to own a smartphone in order to be a functioning adult. However, people have been living and thriving for centuries without smartphones, so I think living without a smartphone can be done-it just may not be the right choice for each person, depending on his or her job and state in life. 

Now that we've cleared up this very common question, I want to cover a few other aspects of life without a smartphone.

It makes more room for silence in my life.
Pretty much everyone I know who has a smartphone wrestles with the allure of apps and constant noise that can come quite easily with that technology. I know some people who exhibit amazing self-control and disable their apps or only use them sparingly. And I could own a smartphone and do this if I want, but I don't see the need to bother with this extra battle in my life right now.

It helps my time online be more intentional. 
Since I don't have the internet on my phone, I only use the internet when I'm on my laptop. I tend to be much more intentional about what I need to research online since looking up anything requires that I pull out my laptop (this may seem simple, but when you have any number of kids, it suddenly becomes less easy!). If I had a smartphone, I would probably be online a lot more than I currently am, because it would be a lot more convenient to surf the internet!

It naturally creates more separation from my "online/work life."
With technology, it is so easy to feel pressured to always be doing something-responding to e-mails, promoting one's brand or work, or participating in online discussions. And while it is good to do all of these things, as a society, we've gotten to the point where we have this urgency to respond. Sometimes, as we try to immediately post our responses or replies online, we ignore the people we are with. A non-smartphone has helped me to be more fully present to other people, and it has helped me learn that most e-mails and online discussions really don't require that I respond within the next few hours. 

It helps me become detached from my phone.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate my phone. It's a great way to contact friends and family. Its alarm goes off to help me wake up in the morning. But, even though my phone is very helpful, I'm not overly attached to it-it's a twenty-dollar object that I bought  years ago.

However, while I have experienced benefits from having a "dumb phone" all these years, there are some major downsides. 

1. I can't receive picture or group text messages.
When friends send out a group text, I won't receive it (unless they use Group Me). So, there have been a occasions when I've had a friend reference a text with event details, and I'll inform them that I haven't received it. Or, someone will try to send me a photo of something and I won't get it. This hasn't happened much (only a few times in the past 7-8 years!), so it's not a huge deal. While it would be convenient to participate in group texts, I've been able to fairly easily use Facebook for group messages when needed. 

2. I don't have a Google Maps app that can help me navigate.
Since I am directionally challenged, this is actually a big downside for me. Even though I've gotten much better at navigating my city's metro area since moving here a few years ago, I still get lost on occasion. In fact, even just a couple weeks ago, I got lost while on the way to a friend's house! I suppose I could get a GPS for our car, but it's not such a huge deal that I feel the need to do that. When I have a place to go, I simply look it up online beforehand and write out directions. If I get lost on the way there, I either call whichever friend I'm visiting, or I find a street I know and figure out things from there. 

***I want to add that my husband owns a smartphone, so when he and I are travelling together, we are able to use the Google Maps app. If he didn't have a smartphone, a GPS could be a good option for us.
Another perk of "dumb phones" is that, with the battery removed, they make 
great toys for kids! So whenever this eventually breaks down, it will 
live on in the toy box :) 
However, even with these downsides, I still really love not owning a smartphone. Having and using a Stone Age phone-while inconvenient at times-makes life simpler for me. Smartphones are great, and are very beneficial-even necessary-for some people (especially those whose jobs involve a lot of travel by car, like midwives) but a smartphone isn't necessary in my life at this point. It's probably going to get harder to replace my phone as smartphones become more normalized (and while I appreciate the sentiment behind the Light phone, I REFUSE to pay a few hundred dollars for a phone that only includes a couple more features than my $20 phone), which is unfortunate. 

But, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Instead, I'm going to embrace the present and enjoy my little piece of Stone Age technology as I soak up my quiet, simple life :) 


  1. Great thoughts! The third downside that I'd struggle with is the photo app options...I love that my smartphone automatically uploads my photos to the place where I get them printed (Shutterfly)...I otherwise dread printing out pictures/uploading/etc. It also costs more around here to have a dumbphone which is crazy!!

    I think I've realized I'll probably always have my smartphone but I want to disable most of it, like Mama Needs Coffee did. :)

    1. The photo app options is a great point to bring up-I guess since I'm so used to uploading photos to my laptop and then ordering prints, the smartphone options for photos didn't even occur to me! That sounds so incredibly convenient and awesome, and definitely seems like a plus for owning a smartphone. It is so wild to hear that dumbphones are a more expensive option for you! I totally believe it, though-a few months back, my phone started acting wacky, so I started looking up replacement options. They were very slim, and most were more expensive than my current phone (even the flip phones! And I do not want a flip phone). I think the strategy to disable most of a smartphone sounds like a really good one, and if and when I wind up with a smartphone, I will probably do that too!

  2. Love it! I am a detester of smartphones, really. I enjoy blogging and messaging friends and photo editing and the creativity that the internet allows me, but I do it all from my computer, at times when I purposefully sit down to work on my computer. I have a smartphone--I wasn't given a choice, somebody bought it for me because it annoyed them too much that they needed to call or email me as I was a key volunteer in our church's ministries. I then paid them back for the phone because if it were a gift, I would have to be thankful for my phone. Since I had to spend money that was not very affordable out of my own budget (though not by my own free will) I can authentically continue to be anti-smartphones.
    Angel now has one, too, his new job required him to get one last summer. Neither one of us appreciated that, but jobs are important, and doing work well is more important than just being stubborn. He misses his old phone that only had to be charged once a week and he never had to worry about dropping it or scratching it if he threw it in his backpack with his keys.
    We don't have any data on our phones, though, in that area we remain stubborn. :P So Angel still does the hand-drawn maps and looking up directions ahead of time. I'm glad that he's carrying on the skill of being good at navigating.
    The one thing I do genuinely enjoy is instagram. I like writing captions, I like seeing my friends (both real life and internet friends) photos. Basically my smartphone is used when I need to make a phonecall, when somebody texts me and I need to respond, and for Instagram. Occasionally I use the calculator, haha!

  3. Love hearing people's thoughts on this topic. I am SO thankful I didn't have a cell phone until college, and a smart phone until a couple years into college. I am trying to figure out how to detach more, but things like gps are big for me. It is beautiful you live without one though, and I'd encourage anyone to do that as long as possible! It's way too easy to get used to not being present in the moment with technology at your fingertips, so it's amazing to see how you can live differently!

  4. I love this SO much. I have an iPhone that I both love and hate. My husband and I have both talked about getting basic phones, but he needs his phone and mobile email access for work (he basically has to be reachable all the time and often works remotely), and since I don't have any family nearby, I'm frequently taking and sending pictures with my phone. I also use Google Maps a lot. My car has a built-in GPS, but it often doesn't have newer places, so my phone helps a lot. If it's working for you, I say don't go near a smartphone! I really struggle with boundaries with mine. I go through phases of doing really well, but I'm currently in one of those phases where I am NOT doing well. It's refreshing to hear that not everyone has a smartphone.

  5. These are some great benefits of having a "dumb" phone.
    I must confess, though, that I love having a smartphone. I think my favorite things are being able to take surprisingly high-quality photos with my phone, being able to pull it out while shopping at a brick-and-mortar store in order to compare prices with online retailers, and being able to read ebooks/listen to audiobooks on it.

    1. I think those are some good points, Shannon! The quality of photos that smartphones take is incredible. And audiobooks! I didn't even think of that (probably because I don't listen to them)-what a good way to use your smartphone. I like how you are able to see some great positives on using that type of phone!