Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Smartphone news

Life without a smartphone is great – The Minnesota Daily

Like most university students, leaving for college came with many goodbyes. Besides bidding farewell to my childhood memories, in a leap of faith, I abandoned my iPhone.

Tired of obsessively checking my email, aimlessly looking at the Weather app and navigating drama from social media, I sought to end the toxic relationship with my smartphone. 

A few weeks before leaving for the University of Minnesota, I popped the SD card out of my iPhone 13 and slid it into a device called the Light Phone II. This phone would enable me to call and text without the distractions of email, a web browser or third-party apps. It looked alien with  a small, gray rectangle with a black-and-white e-ink display. 

“It looks like you put a Kindle through the dryer,” my father said.

It was love at first sight and nearly two years later, I have no regrets.

Joe Hollier co-founded the company Light, which sells the Light Phone II, with product designer Kaiwei Tang after Hollier became disillusioned with his work at a Google-funded design school called 30 Weeks. The program sought to create new smartphone apps that maximized profits from data collection and advertisements, which he felt failed to reflect the actual needs or wants of consumers. 

He calls the experience of using his company’s pared-down technology “going light” — reducing our reliance on attention-seeking, time-sucking devices.

“I just kind of felt like everyone I was talking to was feeling habitually overwhelmed and craving an escape,” Hollier said. “That’s sort of where this idea of ‘going light’ came from and trying to remember there was a time before we were constantly online.”

Switching to the Light Phone II was a learning curve. Texting on the tiny keyboard proved difficult, and the phone made a strange buzzing noise when I tapped each letter. After scrolling through the music player, contacts list and notes app a few times, I ran out of ways to entertain myself. But my frustration turned to satisfaction as I realized feeling bored was the whole point.

I tried using the phone’s navigation system, but I found it clunky and impractical. As a result, I don’t always know when the bus or train is coming, and I have to rely on written directions when driving. While I’ve learned to lean into the uncertainty and improved my navigation skills as a result, I won’t deny the stress that comes with having no immediate way of knowing where I need to go. 

“There is inconvenience in using the Light Phone, but if getting back those hours of your time and that attention span is worth it, I think they outweigh some of that friction,” Hollier said.

During my past two years at the University, I’ve started to think less about what the Light Phone lacks and more about the relief it provides me. No checking Canvas notifications when I’m out with friends, no procrastinating assignments scrolling through an Instagram feed and no sitting on the toilet for twenty minutes lost in a Google search spiral. 

I’ve become more focused and present in every aspect of my life. If that means having to look up the address of a house party before I leave my apartment, so be it. 

The biggest downside of using my phone isn’t the device itself.

It’s the disappointment of sitting eagerly at a table of classmates with faces buried in their phones. It’s the frustration of watching a sunset from the bus in a sea of glowing rectangles, wishing everyone else would pay attention to the fading sky instead of watching 30-second video clips. It’s the terrifying realization that smartphones have dramatically inhibited our ability to interact with our physical surroundings, and there is no conclusive evidence about their long-term effects on our brains or society.

Maybe I sound melodramatic — after all, smartphones have significantly increased connection on a local and global scale. They’ve provided new job opportunities, access to important safety resources and are a reliable source of entertainment, but are these devices worth their deleterious effects on our well-being?

Rates of depression among teenagers have skyrocketed since the release of the iPhone in 2007, with levels of loneliness rising by nearly 50%, according to a survey from Monitoring the Future, an FDA-sponsored research program that has surveyed eighth, 10th and 12th-grade students across the United States since 1991. Adolescents are spending less time with friends, less time on dates and having less sex. 

Patrick Smith is the principal of Maple Grove Middle School, which recently instituted a school-wide ban on smartphones. Students can bring their phones into the building but will face consequences if they take them out at any point during the school day.

Smith said the culture of the school quickly changed. 

“They’re standing at their lockers and socializing with each other face to face,” Smith said. “At lunchtime, they’re talking to each other across the table.” 

Smith added that students were more engaged in the classroom and completed a higher number of assignments. 

Procrastination and low productivity are not habits confined to middle schoolers. We all know how fast 10 minutes on social media can quickly turn into an hour of mindless scrolling. And yet, when people see my phone, usually their first question is, “How do you live like this?” 

I often want to ask them the same thing.

The Light Phone II might not be for everyone, but carrying a supercomputer in your pocket is not a requirement for survival. After all, our human ancestors made it 200,000 years without them. 

The world may seem to revolve around QR codes and apps, but eighteen months after ditching my iPhone 13, I feel more connected to life than ever before. 

Even in times of stress, the sun still rises every morning. If you looked up from your phone, you’d see it too.


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