I started flirting with the idea of ​​picking up a flip phone while watching a live stream on TikTok of someone shaving a grape at 2am

It was a new low. After years of tracking trends and celebrity outfits in my job at Vogue, the constant workday of sourcing new stuff on social media had metastasized into my off hours.

The symptoms of using my phone too much have started to seep into my life. I could not sleep. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and check my phone, like I was a new mom with a newborn. For what? To see the thong that Bella Hadid decided to step out in? To end up in the Instagram Reels netherworld of street brawls and failed Parkour moves?

It was exhausting. Also, why did I have this hump of Quasimodo on my neck? I was once a good boy with good posture. Well, this is what happens when you are seduced by LED light. I was living in a virtual Groundhog day.

Things began to change when I returned to my parents’ home in my New England hometown. After a day of work (and thoughtless scrolling), I threw my iPhone out of reach and joined my mom on an excursion to McDonalds for an iced coffee. As we pulled away from the fast food restaurant, I caught a glimpse of something brown loitering on a wooded patch of land across the highway.

In all the years I’d lived there, I’d never seen a deer in my hometown. Why was it? Had they been there the whole time while my head was so bent over a screen that I’d never noticed?

Another deer appeared and another. Soon, a herd was roaming around. My mother and I sat in the car for 10 minutes, watching them graze. Phoneless and filled with a sudden, righteous bliss, I imagined a future where I would tell my kids, get off those damn phones and look around!

Feeling like I was experiencing a religious awakening, I told my mom to go straight to Walmart. There, I asked an electronics clerk to show me flip phones or rather, the phone that seniors use. She led me to the one offering: an Alcatel powered by TracFone pay-as-you-go service. I bought it for around $50, piano included.

I chose not to activate the internet, for fear of relapse. It was funless no Instagram, no TikTok, no Twitter except for one lo-fi game, Snake, where the player uses the scroll key to operate a snake whose tail grows as it eats.

I made a deal with myself. I still needed my smartphone for work, but used my flip phone when I ventured out into the world and on weekends. Initially the results were excellent. My Alcatel was a stupid phone, a Dostoyevsky-the-phone-idiot that helped me see the simplicity of the world. Hell, I was having a spiritual moment. The first week I got my flip phone, I read a book. A whole book! In a week! Nothing like this had happened since I was forced to read a celebrity autobiography for my previous job.

Anything seemed possible until my third week away from a touch screen, when I started to feel the pain of relying on an archaic device. One night while out, I found out I’d hit my limit of 80 text messages per month. Remember those? This is what happens when you can no longer write sonnets in iMessage. Also, you’ll need to call me and describe that meme you’re trying to send, because my phone doesn’t take pictures.

There’s no denying I’m more involved with the world now that I’m not plugged into an iPhone every minute of the day. But that’s because without access to Google Maps, I get lost in the world. I now own a map of Manhattan. You know, the paper type, in case I don’t follow my hand written directions for the destinations I need to get to during the day.

When I open the map, I look like a confused 90s French tourist exploring the glorious Big Apple. Instead, I’m a longtime New Yorker who’s late for a business meeting and pathetically trying to navigate the Lower East Side.

In addition to the bulky map, I’ve collected an albatross of vintage tech: an indestructible Walkman Sport CD player like the one I had in high school. I only have two CDs: Natalie Imbruglia’s Left of the Middle and Madonna’s Ray of Light, which was my favorite Madonna album, until I listened to it all the way through.

Most of the time, I hate the inconvenience of my flip phone. It’s bulky. He made me a fool with a bag full of rudimentary technology and a map four times the size of my head. But then I remember how much I hated my smartphone addiction. Not to mention my hump as a technician.

When I call my mother from my flip cell phone, it reminds me of the deer. Your phone takes you away from your suburbs, she says. OK, but you know what else gets you out of your suburbia too? A bulbous CD player, a paper map and my wavering dignity when I have to ask someone, which way is the Bowery? Also, doesn’t my mom realize there are no deer in Manhattan?

I tell her this with my flip phone held to my ear, not multitasking and tapping like I did on my iPhone. I feel my body lean against the speaker or maybe it’s the weight of my CD player and I feel unusually close to her.

Liana Satenstein is a journalist in New York.


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