I stopped using a cellphone in February 2012 and disabled my Facebook account several months later.
Simplifying my life by ditching the smart phone and taking myself off Facebook were the foundation of a technology cleanse. I gave myself no time frame and didn’t think of losing either as a sacrifice. Over time, I assessed my needs & wants and re-accepted technology as it fit into my life
Removing both of these technological distractions was like wiping the slate. It gave me the opportunity to decide for myself what I needed, then wanted, in my life for friends & connectivity.
I went without a cellphone completely from February to June 2012.
In the middle of June, I locked myself out of my apartment and realized that one of the first reasons we all loved cellphones were for emergency situations. I started leaving the house with it again but still did not use it actively.
Shortly later, since I was hardly using the phone, I ditched my smartphone altogether. Instead, I opted for a classic flip-phone with a pay-as-you-go $25/mo plan. This works perfectly fine for my needs.
Since I do love the Internets, I supplement not having a smart phone with several SMS services. Twitter notifications, ESPN score alerts, and Google Search can all be set-up over text messaging. I never have to worry about my phone dying if I’m out all day and still can see game scores.
Now, another way I supplement not having a smart phone is by carrying a small notebook on me at all times. Moleskine has several CityBooks for majors cities. I have been using the one for NYC, though it is outdated, and it works well enough for me. This gives me access to street maps (without worrying about a battery dying) plus note paper to write down addresses.
Google Search SMS service allowed me to search for business addresses on the fly via text message. This was very convenient and a service I relied on with my flip-phone. Unfortunately, this service was recently shut down with no warning and there are few/zero free alternatives out there.
I started with no cell phone, then went to flip phone, then I decided to do one more step-up. While not having Google SMS Service is annoying, it is even more annoying to ask to check my email at a friend’s place if I stay over. This has made me feel as though I’m living in the 90’s more than anything else.
I looked into getting a smartphone again but I really don’t need it. I don’t need the phone, contract, or monthly plan. I am very happy with my flip phone & pay as you go payments. I just want to check my email/have a little Internet access.
Last month, I bought a fourth-gen used iPod Touch off Craigslist. This has fulfilled exactly what I needed. I can check my email/twitter if I sleep over somewhere since there will likely be wifi. Yet, I still have my flip phone for calls, texts, and I can go a week without charging it.
A Touch works well for me here because wifi is quite abundant in the city. For the times I’m out of the house all day, I can sit in a park and have access to wifi if I need it. Yet, I don’t need to worry about incessantly charging my phone because the Touch is just a bonus.
I was conflicted purchasing the Touch because I worried I would get back into the habit of being reliant on the smart device, always playing games or browsing wikipedia when I should be with my friends. Although every single bar in Manhattan has free wifi, I haven’t found myself back into old habits yet. I don’t always bring the Touch with me if I’m just going out for a few hours in the evening.
Wants vs. Needs
How did I end up with Facebook and an iPhone to begin with? Well, I thought both would be helpful. (And they can be!) I thought parts of my life could be made easier with the iPhone and staying in touch with friends easier with Facebook. I gave them both a shot and decided it wasn’t for me.
I was able to make this decision as to what I truly wanted to have in my life. No, we don’t need either of these items but do you want them? Do you truly want to keep Facebook in your life? Does it bring you more joy than anger? It was nice being able to take a step back and make this decision.
No, I do not need Internet access away from home, but yes I want it now.
As far as Facebook goes, I logged back into my account once and was horrified at my feed. Browsing for barely a minute made me realize that I do not miss this service at all. I immediately downloaded all my data then deleted my account for good.
In the one year without Facebook, I still hang out with friends, I’m still invited to parties, I still learn when my friends get new jobs or are moving. The best part is I hear about this news directly. Not having Facebook results in real phone conversations or lengthy emails. It means getting together in person more.
I felt I was missing out on a lot more things when I had Facebook than now when I don’t.
Starting over from scratch then working my way back up to only what I needed has been a really big help on cleaning up my life, making things more minimal, and de-cluttering my brain from a lot of unnecessary technology-induced stress.
I know many folks are reverting to simpler technologies and I am interested in what caused you to make the switch (or to never join in the first place)? I am also curious to hear other examples of starting from a clean slate then working your way back up to what you need.