Living without a smartphone in Lebanon.

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I remember the first time I used Whatsapp, it was on someone’s else Blackberry, I was amazed, I had “MSN” right in my hands. Years later, a lot of smartphone users have to combat a mild or high addiction.

I have dropped my smartphone because of several reasons:

  • I thought it was badly affecting some of my personal relationships.
  • It was affecting how I use my “own” time.
  • I am very concerned about privacy.
  • I was sick of it and I wanted to experiment with “smartphone-free” time.

Before making the leap of faith, I was already trying to reduce my usage time to a bare 1:30 or 2 hours a day and was succeeding. I had a tracker in my phone that helped a lot reducing the time of usage. But I was deleting (and reinstalling) social media apps, switching my addictions between Twitter and Facebook. Controlling myself was possible, I had done it, but an addiction can’t be solved with the constant presence of the drug itself, the smartphone. It is like trying to be alcohol free or tobacco-free while they are only within a reach away.

I am using a “feature phone” or “dumb phone” and have been doing so for the past 3 months. (at the time of writing)

My phone can take pictures and selfies, but has space for literally one picture,(expandable with a microSD), it has even internet access. Whatsapp is not supported. Its screen is not a touch screen. Its a more or less basic device with a primary use: phone calls and sms’s.

Switching.

We constantly check our smartphones for anything new, we “unlock” and “lock” our devices constantly, I was certainly doing so. Ironically, when I got the dumb phone, I was doing the same, checking it constantly for novelty. The new monopoly of smartphone devices is so strong that I continued to have my “psychological routes” onto my new phone for a few weeks or so. This waned with time.

Regarding technicalities, the most annoying part is the fact that I had to build up my contact lists from scratch. I added number from my Google Contacts when I needed them. There were obviously no options to “sync”.

I switched my Whatsapp use with Signal and Telegram. Unlike Whatsapp, Signal doesn’t need you to have a connected turned on smartphone, and Telegram doesn’t need you to have a smart phone at all.

Living without a smartphone.

I didn’t expect a “radical” switch in my life because of dropping my smartphone. I am not very interested in “productivity” or “efficiency”. My goal was not to become more productive. My goal was to simply let go of this device and see what will happen.

The good stuff.

  • I’m reading more (much more offline than online) now that I have less time to watch cat videos. (I still happily look at them on my laptop).
  • It feels good to have a battery life of two weeks or so. I feel like I am actually saving some power. I’m not constantly looking for a charger. I’m now charger-stress free.
  • I used to sometimes drive and use my smartphone and this was terrible, I can’t do this anymore.
  • I’m a Twitter addict, I always want to know the latest news. Without a smartphone, my rush for breaking news is now reduced. I can always “catch up” later and that’s fine.
  • My other rush, sharing stuff, thoughts, images, memes, is also reduced. It feels good to be completely present. Not having any kind of rush to look at my smartphone when I’m in a meeting or simply hanging out with friends feels good. Sharing a moment, not sharing pictures or videos of that moment, feels good.

The not so good stuff.

  • It is extremely expensive to make phone calls and send SMS’s in Lebanon.
  • I miss taking pictures of stuff I see that might be interesting, a sign, a protest, a graffiti, a cat. I also want to remember some events, like a nice dinner. I have a camera in my phone, but it is way too shitty. Maybe I should expand my storage.
    Fortunately, others can take pictures and send them to me. This could be easily covered with a camera, but for now, it just feels weird to bring my professional DSLR everywhere. But maybe I should.
  • I spend more time on my laptop. Deleting Facebook is surely an option that has been floating in my mind for years.


I know, smartphones has its uses.

Smartphones are useful, this is certain. Having a “one-for-all” device can be seen as an efficient manner to reduce the “time of switching” between devices.

For example, one could write a text with a smartphone and print it directly (via wireless internet) on a printer. A picture can be shared without “waiting”, no need to go to a laptop and then annoyingly share it from your email.
Smartphones are very important tools to stay connected with friends and family, and it is amazing to connect with your loved ones wherever they are. For example, refugees used smartphones as treasures to be kept and guarded closely because of this connection.

Smartphones are efficient devices, maybe that’s why they are so addictive. They somehow fasten our world. Aren’t just smartphones a reflection or a expression of our current fastened and globalized societies?

The following from the author Bauman resonates with me.

Fortunately, we now have what our parents could not even imagine: we have the internet and the world-wide web, we have ‘information highways’ connecting us promptly, ‘in real time’, to every nook and cranny of the planet, and all that inside these handy pocket-size mobile phones or iPods, within our reach day and night and moving wherever we do. Fortunately? Alas, perhaps not that fortunately after all, since the bane of insufficient information that made our parents suffer has been replaced by the yet more awesome bane of a flood of information which threatens to drown us and makes swimming or diving (as distinct from drifting or surfing) all but impossible. How to sift the news that counts and matters from the heaps of useless and irrelevant rubbish? How to derive meaningful messages from senseless noise? In the hubbub of contradictory opinions and suggestions we seem to lack a threshing machine that might help us separate the grains of truth and of the worthwhile from the chaff of lies, illusion, rubbish and waste . . .”

Maybe I will get back a smartphone, but for now, I’m happy without it.

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