A few months ago, Emma,* a 26-year-old graduate student, decided to exchange her sleek iPhone for the much less demanding flip phone. A surprising choice for a self-described extrovert? Perhaps. Yet she’s not alone. Dumbphone distributors have reported an uptick in sales from the under-35 crowd as some young people ditch tech for simplicity.
Emma spoke to me about the events that led up to her decision and how it’s affected her life.
“My friends think I’m crazy,” she laughs. “I just felt so overwhelmed with my school work, my job, my friends, my husband, TikTok. It got to be a lot. There was a constant pressure to stay connected, to post, to comment, to watch, to share, and I found myself bombarded with stimuli, sometimes at the expense of my responsibilities and my mental health.”
Emma hoped the extreme change would de-complicate her life and eliminate unnecessary stress. She’d read about the trend to purge the smartphone for a simpler and more relaxed life, and she was eager to try it.
Emma admits that it took a while to get used to owning a flip phone. In the days after “the switch,” as she terms it, she wondered if she’d miscalculated badly.
“I used to do everything online on the go,” she explains. “Choose what to order at the restaurant. Find directions to a store. Research information for a school paper. Now I have to plan ahead, set aside time to do research, voice-call people. I wasn’t used to living this way. To be honest, it was rather frustrating at the beginning. I felt like I wasn’t just giving up my phone; I was giving up my lifestyle.”
Doubts plagued Emma, and her husband and friends urged her to reconsider her decision. She acknowledges that she thought about going back to her carrier and switching phones multiple times – until she noticed her stress level dropping significantly.
It started with the “little things,” Emma tells me. Instead of scrolling aimlessly through TikTok before bed, she began falling asleep at a decent hour. At home, she spent more time connecting with her husband. Even when walking down the street, she had the headspace to observe her surroundings rather than respond to social media messages or check status updates. The lack of incessant notifications gave her the time and focused mindset to complete papers without distraction.
Yet the peace of mind does not come without its challenges.
“Sure, at times I have FOMO,” she accedes. “I’ve definitely been left out of some group events because I don’t have a smartphone and people forget to invite me. And it’s hard. I understand. I’m leading a different lifestyle than my friends, than society. They can’t be expected to remember to update me separately. Though in general, the people who need to reach me know how to do so. I’m wasting less time and have the mental clarity to pursue the things that matter and the time to spend on the people who count.”
Emma acknowledges that there are pros and cons to owning both a smartphone and a flip phone, and advises her peers to think carefully before discarding their smartphones.
“Some of my friends tell me they could never do this, and I believe them!” she asserts. “They ask me when I’m going to join the real world again. I may very well get a smartphone in the future, but for now, I’m enjoying the freedom it provides me.”
*Name changed to protect privacy.