I’m continuously astonished by how much less of a big deal this switch has been than I thought it would be
When I first began this “experiment,” I truly wasn’t sure if this was right for me. (A colleague recently told me that she’s pretty sure that after using a flip phone for a year, I can stop calling it an experiment.) And to be honest, I still haven’t decided. Part of what makes this so doable for me is that I don’t feel like I have to make a lifelong decision. Situations change, technological interfaces change, and what is true or right for me in one stage will not necessarily be so in another.
Just the other day someone was going on and on about how difficult her recent tech downgrade made her life. She provided a detailed analysis of why what she had before wasn’t so bad and how she’s even busier now on her phone than she was when she had easier tech access with her smart device … etc., etc., etc.
Finally, I broke in and told her that if she really felt that way, I thought she should just go back to her filtered smartphone. She was taken aback. Isn’t a flip phone better for everyone? Well, I’m certainly not willing to say that. (Please note: I am not a rabbinic authority. Consult your own daas Torah for a personal decision.)
Personally, I feel like I’ve found something that works. Having my primary, go-everywhere-with-me phone as a flip, which has access to only calling and rudimentary texting, is good. It keeps me tethered to the world and not a screen. I feel like I’m aligning to the ideal according to our rabbanim.
At home, I have full Internet usage between my old, disconnected iPhone and my laptop. When I travel, I still switch my SIM card so I can use the airline apps. I do find myself schlepping along my smartphone at times when I want to use the camera or listen to a pre-downloaded shiur, and juggling devices can get klutzy. But it’s okay — the tradeoff is worth it. Occasionally my kids will get annoyed because the service isn’t perfect, and I can’t text overseas numbers, but again, that’s part of the price I’m paying.
And even when others can’t understand or don’t agree with my decision, I pull up the very clear memory of the leaders of our generation standing in front of the podium at the Nekadesh event last year, imploring the women of Klal Yisrael to do everything they can to slow down the floods of technology connection consuming us at an alarming rate.
I don’t claim to understand how my personal, seemingly insignificant tech decisions contribute to the klal, but I think of the gedolim speaking with shining faces and of the brachos they offered to those who move in the right direction, and I feel secure in the fact that I am rising to the occasion in some small way.
I’m continuously astonished by how much less of a big deal this switch has been than I thought it would be. Before changing over, I envisioned dozens of scenarios where I got stuck or wound up incredibly inconvenienced because I didn’t have a smartphone. The way it actually played out though (probably because I still have full Internet access at home and there’s usually somebody else with a smartphone nearby), really didn’t end up affecting me so drastically.
The one time I can think of where I “lose out” is when I park in Manhattan. I used to use an app to get pretty discounted parking rates, but now I can’t, and I pay more for parking. I’m fine with that. That’s part of the price I pay for doing without a smartphone.
I don’t mean to minimize the difficulty; there’s no question that not having a smartphone can cause you to miss out or pay more for things. I have a relative with no Internet access at home other than email, and she doesn’t do any shopping online (literally inconceivable to me). She pays more for clothes and has to drag around to stores in person. But sometimes I think I end up spending way more because of the ease and convenience of shopping, not to mention the constant buying-returning-buying-returning that turns our house into a mall 24 hours a day, and I wonder who is really losing out.
When I’m being really brutal in my introspection, watching my kids grow up with this constant shopping culture has led me to put some real thought into limiting my shopping online, but I still haven’t found a way to do that without getting rid of the Internet. I am most definitely not ready for that. (I did once try to allow shopping online only during certain hours or on specific days of the week, but it was a dismal failure.) I wonder, has anyone found a way to deal with this onslaught of materialism, our ongoing involvement in “stuff”?
In his moving opening address at the Nekadesh event, Rabbi Joey Haber promised that on the other side of being tethered to technology lies freedom and yishuv hadaas. I can’t say that smartphone-free, I feel that calmness and centeredness in my everyday life. The kids and work and communal obligations still pull at me, and the notifications and constant phone calls, which beckon from non-smart devices as well, don’t help. Still, the difference is that while I know this is going to be a lifelong battle, I’m confident that I’ve secured a large victory up front in order to set myself up in the best possible way.
My tech journey isn’t over, because as time goes on, I realize more and more that there is no one perfect solution, and this is a constant struggle for every responsible person; everyone needs to continuously do a real cheshbon hanefesh. I wish us all luck in this most important battle, the fight to retain our tzelem Elokim in a most confusing world.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 983)
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