Researchers at San Francisco State University have found that smartphone addiction bears a striking resemblance to opioid dependency. Of the 135 students surveyed in the study, those who reported the most extensive use of their smartphones also experienced greater feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
The research team also found that those who reported the most smartphone usage were constantly multi-tasking, unable to do so much as watch television without also using their smartphones. This behavior allows less time for the mind and body to relax and leads to what the researchers called “semi-tasking,” in which the students performed several tasks at once, “but did them all about half as well as if they did them one at a time.”
This should not come as a surprise to anyone. We have all been caught in the endless dopamine loop caused by social media notifications, email alerts, and text messages, only to realize that we have just wasted several hours on nonsense. The time we have spent buried in our phones—time we will never get back—could have been better spent doing many other things.
We all know this, yet when the next iPhone or Samsung Galaxy comes out, many will line up around the block, waiting for hours to purchase the newest gadget that requires facial recognition, a fingerprint, and the blood of your firstborn to unlock. Big brother is watching. I promise I’m not wearing a tinfoil hat.
There is an answer to this problem. Like most modern questions of philosophy, the answer lies in our past. It is time that we all unplugged. It is time for a flip-phone revolution.
First, The Drawbacks
Most are understandably hesitant to ditch their personal pocket computers for a remarkably less efficient replacement. It is difficult and often overwhelming to imagine life without the numerous benefits of a smartphone. Allow me to still your fears. I purchased a flip-phone in December 2017 after several months of hesitation, and have managed to survive.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that some inconveniences come with a flip-phone. The three-day battery life is nice, but ten minutes in a group chat and lithium is about to start leaking into my pocket.
I had never realized how dependent I was on Google Maps for travel. Sadly, I never developed adequate sense of direction. The GPS I bought is little better than a map. It routinely directs me into traffic, only to alert me of the coming congestion after I’ve already spent several minutes in gridlock. But at least the radio conveniently plays the same five songs on repeat for my entertainment.
I know what you are thinking: “When you’ve made the sale, stop selling.” But there really is an upside.
Despite its lack of an Internet connection, owning a flip-phone is entertaining. Just answer one text message in public and watch the facial expressions. Strangers and friends alike look at me like I just stepped out of a flying DeLorean from 1995—and I don’t look anything like Doc Brown, although I too have begun to lose the great follicle battle. I’m tempted to start acting like an actual time traveler. Donald Trump is the president — the reality TV actor? I suppose Paris Hilton is the first lady?
Even purchasing the phone was entertaining. The saleswoman was more concerned with figuring out why in the world I would want a flip-phone than she was about making the sale. I suppose there isn’t much commission to be made on a $10 phone. She gave me the most indescribably hilarious look when I told her I was not trying to save money, and wanted a phone that couldn’t even connect to Wi-Fi. She paused for a moment, and I could tell she was thinking to herself, “But he doesn’t look like a drug dealer.” Priceless.
As For the Real Benefits
Ironically, I have had much more free time since getting rid of the device that was supposedly designed to save time. Ever wanted to learn a new language but simply could not find the time? Well, a flip-phone provides little to no distraction and endless opportunity to learn a new language.
In less than a year after the purchase, I became fluent in an ancient dead language. Like those who speak Gaelic, I am one of a handful in the entire world who is fluent in T-9. In just a few short weeks of practice, I returned to peak high school form. And “bilingual” looks great in the Special Skills section of my resume.
To be honest, I decided to get rid of my smartphone because I was addicted. I spent far more time scrolling through a Twitter feed than I did reading books or being productive. I paid more attention to my “friends” on Facebook than I did to the friends who were sitting right next to me. I couldn’t even watch “The Office” without needing to supplement my entertainment with social media. I was entertaining myself to death.
Smartphones may make our lives easier, and some may have their usage under control, but mine was destroying my attention span and ability to focus. Surrendering a little convenience for mental clarity was a trade I was happy to make. How much easier does life need to be, anyway?
Because I have a penchant for heavy-handedness, I severed my attachment to my smartphone with the swing of a hammer. I have had a flip-phone for about a year and a half now, and I have no intention of going back to the future.