by Indigo Mudbhary
It was a crisp, fall afternoon and school had just ended for the day. I was talking with a friend, and I realized I needed to call my mom to find out whether she was still picking me up. After excusing myself to call her, I pulled out my phone and dialed my mom’s number. As I put the phone against my ear, my friend’s jaw had dropped.
“You have a flip phone?!” They exclaimed in an almost outraged tone. My friend looked absolutely and completely shocked, as if a pink elephant had just appeared in front of them. “I mean, if you have a flip phone, how do you even live?” They exclaimed in a tone of voice that seemed to imply a mix of shock and even slight anger.
Before I go any further, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Indigo Mudbhary. I’m 15 years old, I live in San Francisco, California, and I’m a pretty typical teenager — except for the fact that I have a flip phone. When I was in seventh grade, everyone in my grade was getting a phone. I desperately wanted one too, and I begged my parents for a cell phone at every possible moment. Whenever there was a really pretty sunset, I’d say things like, “If only I had a cell phone to take a picture of this!” Whenever I was late for school, I’d say, “If only I had a smartphone that I could use as an alarm!” After all my begging, my parents finally gave in and got me a phone! Well, this phone had one caveat: it was a flip phone.
At first I was devastated, just wanting a regular smart phone so I could blend in with my classmates, taking selfies and doing all the cool things that come with a smartphone. But now, almost three years later, having a flip phone is really, truly my own choice. The fact that I choose to have a flip phone surprises a lot of people. We’re in an age where we have this awesome new tool available to us that can communicate with friends, call a cab, look up information, and a whole host of other things. So I get it — why would I purposely choose to give up all of that? Well, let me share why I continue to choose my flip phone over a smartphone.
1. I’ve mastered the art of feeling bored
My flip phone has nothing fun on it. Its only function is to call people — even texting on my flip phone doesn’t really work. While other people have all sorts of interesting things on their smartphones, the most exciting thing on my flip phone is probably the calculator app. But, I’ve found that the complete and utter lack of entertainment on my phone has actually proven to be helpful because I know how to be bored, something a lot of us have forgotten how to do. We have our smart phones on us all the time, and whenever a situation is boring, we can simply pull out our smart phones and pull up something more interesting to pass the time. I don’t have that option, so I’ve had to learn how to deal with being bored. When waiting for the bus, while other people pull out their smartphones and try to get stuff done, I’m looking at the world around me, noticing things that people on their phones probably wouldn’t. This skill of being able to be bored has helped me in countless situations, and I find that my friends are much more likely to be bored by something and finding something to be tedious. But me? I’m used to it, and I’m grateful for that.
2. I’m a better listener, which makes me a better friend
Now, I’m not claiming that people who have smartphones are bad friends. That would be outrageous. But for me, I’ve found that I tend to be much better at listening to people when I don’t have a distracting device in hand. Smartphones are so exciting that it’s very easy to quickly glance at your phone or be distracted by a notification while talking to a friend. Although you may be quickly glancing at your phone, this makes the other person feel not listened to, and I’ve found that people have told me I’m a very good listener, and I attribute this mostly to my flip phone. My phone is always in my bag, on silent, and can’t distract me from listening to the people I care about, making them not only feel listened to but also making me feel like a good friend.
3. I’m more creative because I notice the world around me
Again, I’m not making the claim that all people who have smartphones are less creative. This is just what I have found to be true in my personal experience. Because our phones have so many features, I’ve found that our phones are no longer just devices we use to call people. Oftentimes, when we go to look up something on our smartphones, we end up mindlessly scrolling through Facebook for the next hour, wondering where the time went. Because I don’t have that option, I’m much more attentive to the world around me, noticing things that people who are immersed in their phones might not necessarily notice themselves. The world is a beautiful place, and I find that I’m far more likely to notice it when I don’t have a shiny gadget in my back pocket. This gives me more time for just me and my brain, to notice the world around me and think about life. For this reason, I’ve found I’m far more creative and much more likely to come up with good ideas when I’m not glued to a screen.
4. I’m more patient and don’t expect instant gratification
With a cell phone, you can immediately get what you want whenever, whether that’s ordering an Uber or quickly looking up the answer to something. It’s very easy to immediately access whatever you want to access. With a flip phone, I don’t have that ability to immediately access things; when I don’t know the answer to a question, I simply have to admit, “I don’t know,” and look up the answer later in the day when I get home to my computer. I’ve found that this makes waiting for things -- in the line at the grocery store, for a bus, for a friend who is late -- much easier because I’m more used to not having things immediately at an arms reach away and I’m less likely to grow irritable at people for wasting my time.
5. My real-life experiences are richer and more rewarding
I’ve found that even the struggles of having a flip phone have had good impacts on my life as well. For example, in certain parts of the city I live in, my flip phone cell service doesn’t work as well, so I’ve sometimes had to ask my friends to borrow their phones to call my parents to pick me up or tell them when I’m getting home. One of my current best friends is actually someone who I met because I asked to use their phone once. Another downside of having a flip phone can be that I can’t easily access social media. But, I’ve found this to be a good thing, because when I use social media I have to go through the whole tedious process of logging into Instagram or Facebook on a computer, causing me to spend less time on social media and more time in the real world and with the people I actually care about. Even the downsides, I’ve found, have had positive benefits too.
So what’s the point of all that I’m saying? Well, in a world where almost everyone has a smart phone and being connected to the web 24 hours 7 days a week is emphasized as the goal, I’m showing you a different perspective, that sometimes being unplugged can be, well, awesome. So I challenge you to go one day without your smart phone. It will be difficult, and you’ll find yourself struggling to remain unplugged, but I challenge you to do it. You will find yourself noticing more things, paying closer attention to the people you love, and being more present overall. It may seem difficult, but if I can live without a smartphone, I challenge you to try it for a day. You may be surprised what happens when you take a second to look up.