Why I’m Using a Flip Phone

It’s black, shiny, brand new, and it’s a relic. It’s modern technology as far as the year 2005 is concerned.

It’s my new flip phone.

I never took an online quiz to see if I had a phone addiction. Dan never said he thought I loved my phone more than I loved him. I never got in an accident because I was texting and driving, though that’s not to say I never drove while distracted.

I was living distracted and I hated it.

I hated the feeling that there was always to do, more to know, more messages to reply to. I hated how I felt after I’d brushing my teeth and set my alarm for the next morning, standing in the bathroom with my phone plugged into the wall, idly scrolling through Instagram, absorbing the details of other people’s lives while I disengaged from my own life.

Dan would call from the bedroom, “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” I’d call back, too ashamed to tell him the truth: Nothing I’m proud of, nothing that deserves my attention, nothing that’s more relaxing than reading my book or cuddling in bed next to you… Then I’d put my phone on airplane mode and crawl into bed, wishing I’d put my phone down earlier.

When my phone is around I can barely be still enough to think my own thoughts, feel my feelings, or appreciate what’s around me. I hate it.

I find myself Googling every question the second it pops into my mind. One minute I’m ordering the double A batteries I need on Amazon, and 15 minutes later I’m poring over product reviews of a coconut shampoo that could be a cheaper alternative to my pricey Deva Curl products, even though I know I’ll stick with the tried and true expensive brand. I’m searching for the recipe for a flax egg and next thing I know I’m pinning a Paleo brownie recipe I’ll never bake and the dishes still aren’t done, the laundry is still waiting to be folded, and my daughters are still reminding me they need a snack.

Before I can even feel crappy for a minute or two, maybe even let the feeling pass, I’m texting my sister or my best friend every single “WTF”,  “I can’t even,” and “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS CRAP!?”  

In front of me is a sunset, a delicious meal, the morning sun casting a pink glow on the Flatirons and I’m wondering how to capture it for an Instagram post, thinking of hashtags.   

My kids want to show me their art, their forts, their dances, and I give them a cursory look and a distracted “Uh huh”  while I scroll through photos of other people’s kids on social media. When I let myself imagine how this scene would look from the outside I am disgusted. I didn’t let myself go there too much.

I didn’t need a Buzzfeed quiz to tell me I’m not happy with the way I used my phone, so I started a new ritual this spring: a digital sabbath. I’ll never stop eating bacon or lobster but I love my version of Shabbat. From Friday night to Saturday night my phone is off. It’s not that I don’t want to be connected to my friends and family. It’s just that I have not found a way to use my phone for the things it was originally designed for—texting and talking—while avoiding the Pandora’s Box my sexy little rectangle holds inside its hard, smooth exterior.

The objective of my most recent Toastmasters speech was to persuade my audience. I decided I’d try to persuade them to shut their phones off—for a day, for a night, or for an hour. I told them stories about my own digital sabbath and how I feel after 24 hours of being phoneless.

I described the feeling of just being wherever I was, enjoying things like a novel or a movie instead of battling the nagging urge to check my phone. I described the discomfort of being stuck in a crappy situation with no way of texting my husband and begging him to bail me out, only to be pleasantly surprised when he showed up and saved me of his own accord. I described the peace I found in starting my day without the distractions of everyone else’s agendas the second I looked at my email.

I described the clarity, the connection, and the gratitude I felt when my phone was off.

I cited research on the addictive nature of phones, including this staggering statistic: The average American checks their phone 150 times a day. That’s once every six waking minutes.

While I practiced my speech, it hit me like an Amber alert in the middle of the night. I could feel as good as I feel on Saturdays every single day… if gave up the convenience of having access to the entire world in my pocket. In return, I’d have my attention back. Sure, I might still be distracted—life’s messy and I’m no Buddha— but at least I wouldn’t have to fight an ocean of information I held in my hand to stay focused.

Two weeks ago I went to the Verizon store. The manager could not move my contacts from my iPhone to my flip phone.

“We’ve never seen anyone go backward before,” he said.

Today I’m fumbling over the keys of my new phone, composing clumsy, time-consuming two-sentence text messages devoid of smiley faces, thumbs ups, or heart emojis. I’m not checking my email constantly, mindlessly looking at Instagram when I have a minute here or a minute there. I’m keeping a notebook and a pen in my bag so I can write down ideas, to-do’s, and questions. I’m looking at my kids when they talk to me instead of my phone.

It has been less than a month since I activated my flip phone but I feel like I’m moving forward.

23 thoughts on “Why I’m Using a Flip Phone

  1. Vanessa says:

    You are certainly brave. I am not sure I have it in me to go back entirely but I love the idea of a digital sabbath. Now to convince my husband to do it!

  2. Ryan Patridge says:

    I was recently forced to stop using my preferred “anti-distraction” basic phone when my carrier sent me messages saying they were about to stop supporting my device (and all 3G phones). I got some satisfaction by leaving that carrier in favor of a used Pixel on Google Fi’s network for $20/month, and leaving my mobile data turned off unless needed in the moment, which is rare.

  3. Arno says:

    Interesting story !
    I guess flip phones camera are less likely able to take nice pictures of your kids for example, don’t you miss the powerful camera of your last smartphone ?

    • Pam Moore says:

      I’ve kind of taken a “hybrid” approach- I use my smartphone like a tablet, when it’s on wifi. So I can still take pics. I just don’t feel like I have to bring it with me everywhere, which I love. Obviously if I am going to an important event where I know I’ll want to take pictures, I will bring the smartphone, but if we’re just going to the park and I don’t have it and a miss a cute pic of my kid on a slide, I can handle that.

  4. Roman says:

    I only use wifi on my phone. Leaving home is going offline 🙂 For important stuff there’s a thing called short message service. All my friends know that…

  5. Paul Jaworski says:

    Thanks for the post, Pam. I’ve been eyeing a backward move myself, but my biggest concern is transportation. I live in a city where I often use Uber or need to get directions for public transportation via Google Maps. Has this been an issue for you?

    • Pam Moore says:

      I rarely use Uber and I’ve only been doing this “experiment” for a few weeks, so it hasn’t been an issue yet. I figure when I need to use Uber and I’m not with a friend who has a smartphone I can call a taxi. As far as directions, my life is pretty predictable (I work from home/stay home with my young kids) so there’s rarely if ever a time I am unexpectedly going somewhere I don’t know how to find. Usually I either a) drive my car that has GPS or b) print out directions in advance. But yeah, those are legit concerns and I am not sure what the answer is to the Uber/Lyft issue.

  6. Nina Badzin (@NinaBadzin) says:

    Loved this post.I have a follow up post idea for you. (Well, you could do many!) But one is this: keep track of all the good questions people ask in person or online or here and do a FAQ. Uber was a good question. Mine would be– group texts? My understanding is they don’t work on a flip phone so I assume you’d just get to it later at some point when you’re home if texts go to a message app on a computer or a tablet. But maybe not!

    • Pam Moore says:

      Thanks, Nina. I love the idea of keeping track of q’s and writing a FAQ… as far as group texts, I can both receive and send them with my flip phone. It converts them into something called a “media message.” But honestly I wouldn’t mind telling people I don’t get them because I don’t usually like them. LOL.

  7. Taz says:

    Ha! We finally gravitated to smartphones – but only on our terms. All of em now use Signal private messenger nearly exclusively, and all contain VPNs for safe wifi hopping. We always pull over to use these phones while driving, and our phone bill is $5/mo with 80% of our minutes thrown away every month. If we would buy a flip phone with just these functions – we would. Smartphones are for chumps.

  8. Emily says:

    I’d love to hear an update on whether you stuck with the flip and why or why not, pros and cons etc… I’m probably about to switch to a flip phone for all the reasons you say, and I’m trying to figure out how to best go about it. These days a lot of the flip phones still have all the social media apps and many can’t be deleted, and I’m wondering if it’s even worth it because I think I’ll still be sucked in.

    • Pam Moore says:

      This is a toughie.. I got a flip phone that didn’t have any extras. (I can’t remember what it was called. If I come across it I’ll let you know). I went back to my smartphone after a year, mainly b/c of texting. Group texts were a nightmare; I could barely read them. And (this was pre pandemic) it was making me super anxious whenever I had to get a sitter. (Usually I just text a sitter my request and if they say no I copy and paste and ask the next one). It seems like such a small thing but it was really stressful. I could say more.. Feel free to FB message me!

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