why I've downgraded to a simpler phone

• 5 min read

bye bye, iPhone 👋

why I've downgraded to a simpler phone

A couple of years ago, I came across The Light Phone and thought, wow, that would be cool. I really liked the vibe and the intention behind it.

I'm also a serial on-again, off-again social-media-er, and have even been off WhatsApp a couple of times. I've noticed I can find messages and digital noise overwhelming, I can get sucked into addictive behaviours on my phone (distraction/avoidance/numbing feelings), or otherwise just procrastinating.

I'd notice myself always feeling for my phone, taking it out of my pocket... and not doing much with it. Not healthy.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, I had become so used to looking out for messages, for seeking stimulus, whether emails or WhatsApp messages, that I was just constantly checking my phone all.of.the.time.

Here's what it would look like:

*checks phone* responds to messages, might jump on YouTube, absentmindedly jumps onto the internet and heads to BBC website, heads to Facebook, ooh what about twitter...

*5 mins later... checks phone again* oh, no new messages? Okay, back to youtube, Facebook, BBC news...

*repeat throughout the day*

It made no sense. And it was frightening that I had become a slave to my phone and - as dramatic as it sounds - was slowly become more robotic, numb and less of a living, breathing, human.

Something had to give.

After it had been on my radar for a while, I finally started reading one of Cal Newport's books, a proponent of taking control of technology, of being digitally minimal, of claiming back our time and our lives.

I decided to take the plunge. I needed to change my phone.

I had been putting it off for a bit. Probably because I like my phone. A lot. Probably because I'd miss it. Probably because, on some messed-up level, I wondered how I'd survive without having it. As I’ve already mentioned, it's a useful avoidance/emotional-numbing tool for me and just a trusty friend (rather, it pretends to be) that’s always there.

I had a couple of criteria, though, for this new phone.

1. I ideally wanted to stay on WhatsApp. Overall, it's more useful being on WhatsApp than not. (Though, I have some limitations in place there, too - perhaps for another post). Long story short, I'm in a couple of groups on WhatsApp, and I like the voice-messaging feature. It's nice to be able to communicate with voice with folks - especially those treasured friends I don't get to see that often, for one reason or another (e.g. because they don't live anywhere near me, or in another country completely).

So there was that.

2. And I wanted a phone where I could have Spotify. I could have gone real old-school and gone back to an MP3 player (remember those?), and tbh I still might… this thing looks pretty appealing.

One thing at a time, though… the ideal thing was to find some standalone music player that came with Spotify and Spotify only (i.e. no internet/apps). Unfortunately, I only found one device that did that, an the reviews weren't too complimentary.

But then I found this review (see below) on Amazon, and it was exactly what I was looking for (a sign, it must be a sign) and just the reassurance I needed. It basically said it was the perfect phone, with WhatsApp, Spotify... and I was like those are the apps I need! I was sold.

AND, it was a Blackberry. Nostalgia. I loved my Blackberry (I had owned a couple). This time it would just be a little different, though, as I didn't want to receive emails or anything.

photo: Randy Lu / BlackBerry Classic

I literally use my Blackberry for texts, Whatsapps... and YouTube (the latter for listening to music on-the-go, seeing as I’ve not installed Spotify). It's a clunky browser, but one that still works. (I deleted the YouTube app and other social media apps). For WhatsApp, I had to download this workaround app and pay $5 for, and I have to do the same for Spotify but I just haven't connected it yet [update: still haven’t]. We'll see if that works. Once I have Spotify, I'll have NO reasons to use YouTube, or anything that's not messages/calls, on my phone. It also has a GPS/'Maps' which isn't as snazzy as Google, but does the job. (If I go abroad, I'd probably take my iPhone SE with GoogleMaps just in case).

Literally EVERYTHING else is available on my Mac. (Which, again, I am working on being more intentional with. For example, I'm using Freedom right now to block out **everything that's online** so I can just write without getting distracted. I was actually going to jump on emails, and then Amazon, whilst writing this, so it's served it's purpose already in these last 15minutes; Freedom also lets you block *specific* sites, and allow others, you can get it on your Apple/Android phone too, and you can even sync it across both laptop & mobile devices).

Downgrading mobile phone was my way of changing my addictive, detrimental phone habits.

This is all a part of the de-clutter I'm going through, to free me of stuff which doesn't serve me. And digital stuff is a big one.

I need YouTube, social media, emails, news, messages and web browsing far less than I think I do; and, far less than these companies and, well, the world tells us we do (of course, they're designed to keep us on our devices as long as possible, because that's literally their business model).

A mobile phone... the clue is in the name... a phone that you can carry around with you. Use it to make calls, or send messages... that's it. (Ok, listening to music too).

It feels like going back to primal basics is only a good thing for us humans. I honestly think we're not designed to have so much technology in our lives.

And I'm feeling better for it already, so it feels like I made a good choice.

I'd really encourage you to think about what your digital use looks like. This is just one part of my trying to live more simply, minimally, and feeling more clear, emotionally. "Less stuff" really does feel better in so many ways.

Whether it's physical or digital clutter, I feel that there's an overlap here. I believe "more stuff" takes up more energetic & emotional space within us. So, both are good, and my intention is to continue to clean up my act (see what I did there?) on both fronts.

PS. I now have just a handful of first names in my contact list!* My last phone pulled in everyone I had on LinkedIn - so I had a bunch of clients from my previous life and a whole bunch of people in my phone contacts who I had never spoken to, but who my phone had saved a record/email address for. Literally hundreds of names, company names, email addresses… that I did not use or need. #Clutter

*I now have 2 Hannah’s saved, so there’s a small exception there. Otherwise - just first names! Ah, it’s so nice.



June 2020 update: still loving my Blackberry. The Whatsapp workaround stopped working but this has been a blessing in disguise - no more meaningless, unintentional, distracting chats.

January 2021 update: the Blackberry screen cracked and became unusable. Back on my iPhone, but the native app restrictions help (plus: continuing to have limited contacts + keeping group conversations to a minimum).

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