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This Is What It’s Like To Not Own A Smartphone In 2018

As more people start to question their dependence on devices, I’m digging my heels in on my flip-phone life.


It’s 2018, and I’ve never owned a smartphone.

Four years ago, I wrote about having no regrets for being a “dumb phone” user. At the time I was an anomaly: 58% of Americans, according to Pew researchers, owned a smartphone; that figure was around 80% for people in my age demographic. Now, I’m a clear oddity: 77% of U.S. adults are smartphone users, as are around 90% of my peers.

But, oh well. I don’t plan on changing tack anytime soon. Here’s why.

Related: My Life Without A Smartphone


All the reasons why I was happy to live without a computer in my pocket four years ago still hold true today: Certain choices are easier to make without digital temptation, like reading physical books on my commute and being fully present with my friends at meals. But there are new reasons, too.

Like many Americans, I’ve found the news cycle pretty draining since the 2016 presidential election. Being cut off from push notifications when I’m not at my desk hasn’t made me feel uninformed, but it’s probably helped me keep a shred more of my sanity (and has made “unplugging” on vacations a lot easier).

Something else has changed in my life that’s further solidified my low-tech commitment: I’ve become a parent. Many parents are becoming more deliberate about choosing how and when to introduce tech into their children’s lives. For what it’s worth, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limited or no screen time at all before age 2.

But aside from which gadgets we expose our son to, I’m also conscious of how my own tech usage impacts his view of the world (my husband, it should be noted, doesn’t own a smartphone, either). There are countless articles about how being raised on smartphones and social media has led a generation of kids to be depressed and lack empathy. And the number of tech executives from Bill Gates to former Facebook exec Chamath Palihapitiya who limit or ban tech for their own children is starting to give some parents pause. (Fast Company is planning an article on parents’ feelings about their kid’s use of tech–click here to participate in the survey).

What’s less discussed is the impact of parents who themselves can’t help compulsively checking their phones–by some estimates, as often as 46 to 85 times a day. I certainly don’t plan to shield my son from technology. Once he starts school it would be impossible anyway, and to do so would be a huge disservice. But just as I’ve found in my own life, there’s a way to stay informed about and proficient in technology while setting boundaries around how much it infiltrates my life. For him, that will start with seeing that his parents don’t prioritize a little glowing rectangle over looking each other’s faces.

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