An experiment in using computers for computer things and phones for phone things.

My expedition into willful disconnection continues

Around a year ago I wrote a post about turning off smartphone notifications. This week (actually about two weeks ago now) I’ve taken the spirit of that idea and pushed it further towards its logical extremity. It’s very simple and not worthy of an entire blog post. But first a small diversion, which will likely make this into an entire post.

How to break your smartphone addiction

Lately I’ve had a product idea rolling around in my head. What I want is to temporarily and at-will have a flip-phone (for the sake of this post, consider “flip phone” to be any non-internet connected cell phone). That is to say, I want a phone that does voice calls and text messages and not much else - but I only want that part-time and only when I want. I want to be able to go back to a smart phone at will. I’m not committed enough to the idea or enough of a Luddite to want to write off that level of technological involvement wholesale. I love the things that a smart phone allows me to do and the way it expands my mind at times.

But I also hate that it often shrinks my focus and robs my attention.

So the idea I considered trying to develop is:
A smartphone app + actual hardware flip phone combo whereby when you flip a switch in the app, for as long as you choose, all of your calls and texts are temporarily forwarded to the flip phone.
Depending on how you live your life, anything truly important and urgent should still get to you. Everything else will be waiting for you on your other device.

Back to reality…

Imagine you’re going out to dinner, or to a library or cafe. Or the park or beach or for a walk. You flip the switch in the app and grab your cheap plastic flip phone and go off and live your life like you used to before smart phones and notifications started infiltrating our minds and palms, invited in like little glass vampires.

How I’m simulating this, and how you should, too

I turned off cellular data access for just about everything on my iPhone.

I’ve allowed through iMessages, weather, maps and some Dropbox sync stuff (for notes and similar things). If I want normal use I can flip on WiFi - but that conscious choice is very meaningful, as I’ll mention shortly. Aside from not getting nudged by notifications or idly looking at Twitter without realizing it, I’ve automatically trained myself out of the reflex to google every thought I have or to needlessly check my email or slack (typically resulting in a spiral of other nearby distractions and losing 20 minutes before knowing it).
Having to go into settings and flip the WiFi on makes me second-guess if I really need to do that Internetty thing - and the majority of the time I realize I don’t.

The outcome? I read things on paper more often. I spend more time with my eyes closer to the horizon line than the line that describes the corner of the floor and the wall. I actually finally wrote a second post on this site, which I had wanted to do for weeks prior to this. My phone sits in my pocket or a distant counter top for hours before I remember it exists.

Most significantly, I remember what life felt like before I got an iPhone.
Which is to say, a little bigger, a lot slower and much more like I’m consciously living it.

Would you use a hardware + app flip phone situation like I described above? Let me know below: