Reflection: Two Years with a Flip Phone

Please note: I am not suggesting you get a flip phone. What you do is up to you; I’m just sharing my personal experience.

It’s hard to believe that it was over two years ago when I dropped my smart phone and the screen shattered. I’d been living on the edge and not using a phone cover for almost two years before that because I’d read about the increase in radiation exposure with the use of cases (more about that here, but the case essentially weakens the phone’s signal, so then it sends out a stronger signal). And somehow I hadn’t destroyed my phone until I was actually due for an upgrade.

But as the upgrade came about, I’d been doing a little bit of looking into what I wanted for my next phone. I liked the phone that I had, but was not excited about the idea of an “upgrade”. How much new tech did I really need?

I also had a really interesting experience while I was at the 2017 BIRTHFIT Summit. I checked my email on one of the breaks, and found that my landlord had reached out to inform me that the fire department was headed to my office because someone had smelled smoke in a neighboring suite. This was the exact situation that I had a smart phone for: “What if something happens and someone needs to get in touch with me? I need to be available,” I’d told myself. A fire at my office would obviously be an emergency. But I was in Venice, CA, and was in no way able to help in this potential emergency situation. And even if I was in Raleigh, what was I going to do? Grab a bucket and a hose myself? I started to question what the point of being connected all the time really was. (There was no fire and I never found out what the smoke smell came from.)

Plus, I was noticing (to my dismay) that my then three-almost-four year-old was very interested in what I was doing on my phone all the time. And my nearly one year-old wasn’t far off in that interest. Neither of them had had more “screen time” than my oldest watching an instructional youtube video here or there, and we cut our cable cord (not to be replaced by anything) in 2015. But the idea that they weren’t exposed to screens all day was laughable.

My husband doesn’t have social media, doesn’t work from his cell phone, and only occasionally plays a game (which I call “smash phone” because he doesn’t appear to be doing anything other than smashing on the screen, but apparently the Marvel characters are all battling each other and sometimes he wins). So the interest had to be coming from me. And that wasn’t surprising because I was spending A LOT of time on my phone.

From responding to texts, Slacks, and emails to doing quick updates to my BIRTHFIT NC schedule, logging into my chiropractic schedule, and getting things done for BIRTHFIT, I was on my phone a ton. Add onto that some mindless scrolling through social media and responding to messages and comments there, snapping photos or videos of the boys, and my phone basically never left my hand. I was no longer playing games like Angry Birds, Words with Friends, or Candy Crush, which had all had their moments of glory in the past, but I was still hooked to my wireless device.

I’d done the “Do Not Disturb” settings, turned off notifications, and even attempted to grey-wash my screen in an effort to decrease how much time I spent on it. All that happened was that I was compulsively checking my device to ensure that I hadn’t missed what was coming in and that I wasn’t getting notified about.

I regularly did tech-free weekends and felt wonderful afterward. But the return to smartphone Mondays was getting harder each time. Not because I was missing my tech-free weekends, but because the world doesn’t operate that way and coming back to tech-laden reality was harsh. I would boot up my phone and find a ton of notifications, messages, emails, etc. waiting for me that had come in over the weekend.

I also had been diagnosed with Lupus (you’ll notice flip phone is on the list of things that helped me heal in this blog), and was working to figure out ways to de-stress my life so as to promote more healing.

As you already know from the title of the blog, I switched to a flip phone. The Verizon sales person was not impressed and kept trying to get me to get a new smart phone, but I told him I’d only leave happy if I had a dumb phone in my hand. They had one available, so I didn’t even do any comparison on what my options were. My husband was incredibly supportive. I’m joking. He literally told me that he thought I’d die. If that doesn’t tell you how badly I was attached to my phone, I’m not sure what will.

Good news: he was wrong. I didn’t die from lack of smart phone. But the ol’ flip phone has created a lot of commonly-asked questions, a lot of very strange looks, and several “What IS that?!” responses when I pull out my phone. Several people have said that they simply couldn’t do it, but lots have expressed interest or wantingness to make the switch back, but are unsure about some of the details. So I asked on social media what questions you have, and figured I would answer those and at least some of the other questions I’ve gotten in the past two years as concisely as possible. (If you’re new to my writing, “concise” is a big challenge for me.)

So without further ado, I’ll share with you the FAQ on switching to a flip phone and how it’s been for me personally.

  1. Are you crazy?

    1. Possibly.

    2. In all seriousness, it’s a decision that has gotten a strange amount of backlash. Kind of like deciding not to find out the sex of your baby when you’re pregnant - people seem to take that personally. And some people have legitimately been affronted that I would not be using a smart phone, as if it was somehow inconvenient for them.

    3. A lot of people assume that I’ve “held out” and never had a smart phone, but I got my first smart phone (a Blackberry) in 2009 when I was in chiropractic college and have since had several Androids and one iPhone. So rather than never being exposed to a smart phone, I had one for nearly a decade and then reverted.

  2. What about GPS?

    1. Aside from #1, this is actually probably the most common question I get. It depends. Sometimes, I print off directions ahead of time if the route is long or complex and completely unfamiliar to me. But usually, I just look up the directions on my computer ahead of time and commit them to memory or jot them on my hand. I also have to pay attention more. Like a lot more. And yes, I have two kids who are often in the car with me.

    2. I feel like it’s worth mentioning that I don’t have GPS in my car. Akin to my phone, my car is about as bare bones as it comes. When I traded in my old car, I wanted a stick shift, which meant my options were limited. I didn’t intentionally get a “dumb” car, but a car with no power locks, power windows, or Bluetooth capabilities was about $4K less expensive than a car with those things. I opted to save some dough. I think it’s also worth mentioning that a flip phone is a lot cheaper than smart phone, if saving money is your thing.

  3. How do you use instagram?

    1. I have a fairly consistent presence on Instagram, which can only be run from a mobile device or tablet; it can be viewed from a web browser, but not uploaded to. I have an iPad. Once again, it’s a less-optimized version of this option: my iPad doesn’t have cellular connectivity, but operates only on WiFi.

    2. I do have a hot spot that I use sparingly because there have been a few instances when i actually needed to be connected, but it doesn’t run as quickly and isn’t reliable for GPS, so I use that sparingly (mainly for travel - more on that later).

  4. Can you get emojis?

    1. (I’m surprised by how often this question comes up!) Some. On my phone (I have the LG Exalt), I can send and receive faces, and can receive some other emojis, but not all. I sometimes respond and say that the emoji didn’t show up, but other times I just leave it. I figure if it’s important enough to communicate, an emoji likely wouldn’t suffice.

  5. What about group messages?

    1. Yep! MMS capabilities are on most flip phones, which allows you to be part of group messages - I think? Honestly, I don’t know the tech reasons, but I can be part of group messages.

  6. What about in an emergency?

    1. Most emergencies really just require a phone call. But let’s say I get super lost and am unsafe. In that case, I would probably turn on my hot spot and use my iPad. But if that’s not an option, my phone actually has 4G connectivity capabilities, though I’m not sure why. I could actually set up my email on it, and even search the internet. I’ve never used this because it is comical to have to scroll down with the arrow keys to navigate, and it’s not worth it to me. But in an emergency, it would be there. Not all flip phones have that, though.

  7. How do you work?

    1. On a computer most of the time. It actually didn’t make any sense for me to try to respond (at least with any sort of depth) to emails that I was getting related to BIRTHFIT, BIRTHFIT NC, or TriangleCRC. (Since switching, I’ve added another business venture in being a Beautycounter consultant, but again, it makes more sense to check on my clients or orders from a computer rather than tap them out on my phone.)

    2. The schedule of work, somehow after two years, is still not worked out exactly. It kind of depends from day to day. But typically I end up getting immersed in work for a bit of time, and then leave it completely. The “leaving it behind” part is something that I had a REALLY hard time with for a VERY long time. But I’ve gotten better at it since it’s just simply not a possibility for me any longer.

      1. To give you an idea: it’s Monday right now, and I’ve done about 3 hours of some type of work so far this morning. This includes responding to emails and messages, making a few edits for the BIRTHFIT Blog, creating some content for my Instagram channel, setting up a few meetings, checking on Beautycounter orders, and writing this blog. I’ll take a break and workout and play with the boys, and then do about another hour of work for BIRTHFIT, and then we’ll eat lunch and the boys will lay down for a nap, at which point I’ll get on a BIRTHFIT meeting. I’ll continue to work through nap time, take a short break when the boys wake up to hang with them, and then I’ll wrap up things around 5pm. I go offline at 5 usually, but depending on what’s going on, will sometimes check things after that. My friends or family can still call/text, but I won’t do anything work-related. If I do check in before signing off for the night, I won’t create anything new, but will respond if necessary. I often use the “snooze” function of Gmail so that I have all of my emails to be responded to when I’ve set aside time to do so. I have a hard rule of not checking anything after 7pm.

      2. Tomorrow will be completely different because I see patients 8-12 and have a staff meeting until 1. I am almost always home for the boys’ nap and read/lay down with them, so I don’t usually start any emails/meetings/other online things until around 2:!5. I typically will do a quick post or check to social media before I leave for work in the morning, but don’t usually check anything until the afternoon. Again, each day varies.

      3. The other thing is that over the course of the past two years, I’ve essentially trained people to expect not to hear from me on my off-hours. So if you reach out to me at 8pm, you’re not going to hear back until the next day. The rapid response times of our current society don’t seem to be speeding up anything but the aging process and rates of stress, in my opinion. Putting a little bit of space between a question and an answer is sometimes frustrating, but usually results in less rash decision making on my part.

  8. What about photos and videos?

    1. My LG Exalt has one of the nicest cameras of a flip phone - it’s 5MP. Granted, it’s nothing like the portrait mode on your iPhone and the lens of the camera broke off during one of the 10,000 times I’ve dropped it and it doesn’t take the most beautiful pictures because there’s definitely some dirt in there now. BUT, it takes pics and videos. And the fuzzy photos of yesteryear tell me that I don’t need an absolutely clear photo to capture an absolutely clear memory.

    2. I do take photos and videos with my iPad, but I honestly don’t take as many photos as I used to.

    3. I don’t own a camera.

    4. I get professional photos (headshots and also family photos) done at least once per year by my friend and incredibly talented photographer Amanda.

  9. What about quick questions or looking things up?

    1. I have found that I used to look up pointless things and not retain any of the information. I’d be talking with friends and want to find out some trivial fact, so one of us would grab our smart phones and look it up. No one would remember the fact at a later date (because we didn’t need to - we could just look it up again). So now I look things up less often and find myself retaining more fun facts that I actually want to know.

  10. Do you have to type out each letter?

    1. T9, baby! If you’re not familiar or don’t remember T9, it was the early predictive texting. So if I want to type out “car”, then I would tap 2-2-7 because the letters could spell “car” or “cap” or “bar” or whatever instead of having to type out 2-2-2 for “C” and then pause and then tap 2 for “A” and then tap 7-7-7 for “R”. I have no idea if this makes any sense, but if you’re not using T9, on a flip phone, then texting is a lot slower. T9 speeds things up a lot and also allows me to type without looking at my phone, which is a nice side effect because I can feel the keys instead of having to stare at them.

  11. What are the hardest parts?

    1. Travel is a bit tricky. This is when I usually use my hot spot. Most airports have WiFi, so I can use my iPad to get an Uber or a Lyft, but the signal is usually really weak outside of the airport, so I’ll have to use my hot spot. But once I’m in the ride share, I don’t actually need to stay connected (though I may want to for extra safety precautions) and it’ll still work just fine. The next time I connect, it tells me how much the ride cost and allows me to tip or review.

    2. I wish I had my calendar available to me. I get a daily email of my Google Calendar for the day, but I don’t always have it right at my fingertips. It used to be possible to text your Google Calendar for an update, but you can’t do this anymore (probably because most everyone else in the world has an app on their phone for the calendar). I submitted a request, but don’t expect that to become possible anytime soon. There is a calendar on my phone, but it’s not synched with my Google Calendar, which is where I keep track of all of my happenings. I tried carrying around a paper calendar for a while, but it got to be too much of a pain to mark things on multiple calendars, and I ended up not using it. Plus, one that was small enough to carry around conveniently wasn’t big enough to keep track of everything.

    3. Notes/reminders aren’t always the easiest things to keep track of. So if a thought pops into my head and I need to remember it, I have to seriously stop myself and commit it to memory. This doesn’t always work. I have a voice memo recorder on my phone, but it’s a bit of a PITA to rename the file, so I don’t use it often unless I really need to. The same goes for writing out an actual note on my phone.

    4. If I’m going to an event where I want to have photos or be able to post to social media during the event, then I’ll need to take my hot spot, iPad, and still have my cell phone available. So I end up with a lot of gadgets when I could just have one.

    5. Link sharing is a bit more difficult. If someone texts me an interesting link or podcast, I may respond back and ask them to email it to me. It’s not much of a hassle, but it is another step and I’m the one who decided to get more inconvenient; not them. To avoid that, I usually will just forward that message to my email and open it on my computer. I think this is one of those MMS things: I can send a text to my email address.

    6. I still spend a lot of time on technology. Getting rid of my phone didn’t stop the fact that I create a lot of online content, work for a company remotely, and have a ton of communication to do for my work. It’s a lot less and feels less addictive, but I still do quite a bit on tech throughout the day.

  12. What are the best parts?

    1. I find myself experiencing things more. I went to a concert and was so disappointed by all of the blue screens and grateful that I was actually witnessing the show.

    2. It’s easier to disconnect. I can just leave my iPad and then social media isn’t an option. My phone allows me to stay in touch with people while still allowing me to disconnect from things that aren’t necessary 24/7.

    3. It’s really gratifying to flip my phone closed.

    4. I get to use speed dial. I love speed dial.

    5. It’s usually a conversation starter. By disconnecting, it actually allows me to connect with random people who want to ask about my phone. If I was on a smart phone at the airport, the person next to me would have no reason to start up a conversation and we’d both just stay buried in our technological realities.

Other notes and random thoughts: I still place my phone on airplane mode before bed so that I limit the amount of EMF in my bedroom but still have my alarm available. I have timer notifications set for my Instagram so that it warns me that I’ve been on for 45 minutes in a day, and I usually cut it off after that. I have Siempo on my desktop to help me speed up my time on Facebook and limit distractions while working. I get iMessage notifications on my iPad, but no other notifications. I do allow badge notifications for Slack so that when I’m on my iPad (which is how I take patient notes), I will see a message come from my front desk if I need to, but it doesn’t have a little number to indicate how many messages I have, nor do I allow those for my email.

Ultimately, this has been a great shift for me. My phone is still working despite the camera lens being broken, so even though it’s been over two years, I’m not “upgrading”. I have spent a little bit of time looking into a few other flip phones because supposedly one of them can connect to Google Calendar, but I didn’t verify that yet and the camera was only 2MP, so the trade-off for me wasn’t really worth it because I do like being able to snap a pic of the boys on occasion. I’m still debating on that one, but regardless, I plan for another two years with a flip phone whenever this one craps out.

If you made it all the way here and still have questions about life with a flip phone, leave them in the comments below and I’ll answer (you know, when I’ve batched time to do so!).