When Apple admitted to slowing down processing speed for outdated iPhone models just before Christmas, I chuckled. While “planned obsolescence” worries every iPhone user lacking the thousand bucks to shell out for the new iPhone X, I have continued to use the same “dumb” phone for the past seven years.
As the rest of the world has taken up frantically flicking their thumbs up and down the phone screen, the only temptation to even take my phone out of my pocket is when it vibrates.
I need to charge it only every three days, and I use it for two things: to make calls and to send text messages. That’s it.
My goal in holding onto such an antique device is not to express some insufferable hipster virtue signaling. And I’m not some gray-faced curmudgeon shaking his fist at modernity. I’m just the type of person lazy enough to hide behind the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And as a college student, I don’t have a lot of money to pay for an expensive data plan.
It’s a pragmatic move, but it’s been a blessing.
The absence of a smartphone has enabled me to experience the world in a more concrete way, rather than virtually.
I remain an outsider in the world of instant information. I use Mapquest like a septuagenarian. In cars, waiting rooms, trains or airplanes, I don’t have the temptation to sink all of my attention into a screen. I can have a conversation with strangers or enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation.
Life without a smartphone is quieter, slower, less instant.
Unlike many millennials, I have not been tempted by a constant internet connection to enter a separate reality where status updates, emails and Snapchat comprise a significant portion of my social interactions.
Smartphone addiction is real. Recently, Apple released data showing smartphone users look at their screens roughly 80 times a day. Other estimates have been even higher.
Like alcohol or drugs, many smartphone owners use the devices to escape reality through constant entertainment and stimulation. If reality gets too boring, power up the phone.
Recently, I found myself in an Apple Store in Houston watching a girl, no more than 12 or 13, opening her very first iPhone. Her parents leaned in to see her smile as she beheld the glossy reflection of her face in the screen. It was as if fireworks were exploding in her head. And then, she almost dropped it.
Her smile confirmed the world she was born into had sold her a dream. For the younger generation, receiving a smartphone signifies an entry into adulthood. It has replaced shaving those first faint hairs on your upper lip or driving lessons as the coming of age.
These kids have never lived without constant access to social media and the internet. I am grateful I have, and hope I can continue to do so.
But I know that soon my career will force me to buy a smartphone. I hope I can keep it in my pocket often enough to still enjoy a brief conversation in a waiting room. And if my phone slows down, like Apple admits it eventually will, I probably can.
Mark Naida is an editorial intern at The Detroit News and a senior at Hillsdale College.