| Diary Serial |

Connected: Part 5 of 6 

The annoyance and inconvenience of the flip phone isn’t just a mistake — it’s a big part of what makes it less addictive

I assumed that the longer I used a flip phone, the less of a pain it would be to text on it. As with anything new, obviously there’s a learning curve, and I thought I needed to give myself time to get used to it.

But it doesn’t seem to be working like that in this case. I find myself getting more impatient with the interface, and when I get a notification that several texts are coming in, my heart actually sinks at the thought of having to clumsily return them. At this age and stage in my life, convenience is key, and if there’s a way of lowering stress in a certain area, sign me up; I’m all about cutting corners. So intuitively it just feels wrong to actively be making my life so much more klutzy.

Now, I know that the annoyance and inconvenience of the flip phone isn’t just a mistake — it’s a big part of what makes it less addictive. That said, I’d love to have texting be just a little smoother… I mean, theoretically speaking, I would get more exercise without a car, and it would be better for my health if I walked everywhere, but I’m not giving up that convenience. Would a phone with quick, easy texting be so different?

I did discover I can send voice notes, at least when my phone is in the mood and doesn’t freeze that feature, which helps a lot, though I can’t receive them. Fine by me — I never liked listening. Now I can send voice notes out and the other person has to actually type everything out in response. (Or call me, but let’s face it, no one wants to actually talk these days.)

Here’s an embarrassing realization I’ve come to: I think that part of the reason the Nekadesh event spurred me to try this (even though the idea has been in the back of my brain since Rabbi Wallerstein’s petirah — let’s face it, very few people can claim to be busier than Rabbi Wallerstein, who never considered a smartphone necessary) is that I never realized how many women actually really do function just fine with a flip phone.

In my tiny corner of the frum world, most people are using smartphones. Filtered, TAG-ed, limited apps (or not)… but the vast majority definitely uses them. Including people way more choshuv than myself. So it was never really even a decision I made so much as a decision that I didn’t make; it was just the default.

Looking around at the event, though, I saw hundreds and hundreds of flip phones around me. I realize I’m making myself sound like I live on another planet, but for someone coming from a place where flip phone users are absolutely the exception (even though I knew that in larger communities like Lakewood or certainly Israel that isn’t the case), it was a shock. I saw with my own eyes how many women, who I’m sure are no less busy than I, were making the choice that despite the inconvenience, the benefits of a flip phone outweigh the costs (and more relevant to me, that the costs of an iPhone outweigh the benefits).

Were they all dumber than I was? Were they all just blindly following each other, not realizing how much easier the iPhone was and how little it would affect their spiritual lives?

Or maybe I needed to consider another option — that they were seeing something I wasn’t. It gave me a wake-up call.

I just wonder if there’s a way to get a device with only calling and extremely smooth texting, and nothing else. Or would that be an issue in any case? My son just went to an asifah for yeshivah bochurim where they pushed the “Ani Chomah” phone, a talk-only device with a clear symbol identifying it as such. Despite my instinctive desire to roll my eyes at the thought, clearly there are a significant number of talmidei chachamim who feel there is something wrong with our reliance on texting. And it’s not because they live in ivory towers and “don’t get it.”

I’m not saying I’m willing to go the talk-only route, but I’m also not childish enough to think they just don’t know what they’re talking about.

Interestingly, the part I thought would be hardest about the switch really isn’t an issue. I worried about not having access to information and sites online, but it’s been three weeks and I don’t think there was even one time I was stuck. I had these visions of needing an Uber and just being totally lost. Turns out I don’t really use Uber that regularly.

I thought I’d be missing Google a hundred times a day. I don’t. Yes, there are times when I can’t open a link someone sends, or a file of some sort… so I just ask them to email it to me, and I check it on the computer when I get a chance, so it hasn’t been an issue. I’ve had no Internet emergencies, and if I did, there are probably enough people around with smartphones that someone would be able to tell me what time a store opens or closes. In terms of challenges, not having Internet access in my pocket hasn’t even come close to the inconvenience of the texting interface, which just causes me to text less.

I keep thinking about what Rabbi Joey Haber said at the Nekadesh event — about how we are so scared to see what’s waiting behind the door of getting rid of our tech attachments. And how maybe we will find out that what is actually there is… freedom.


To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 982)

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