Freemors Blog

Musings of an East Coast Techie

Divorcing My SmartPhone

2017-08-28 by Freemor

So, I came to the realization that I was in a broken relationship. One in which my attention was often demanded for petty reasons. A relationship where interacting with the other party failed to fill any deep or meaningful need despite a promise that it would be more fulfilling.

The other party was my smartphone. So it was time for a divorce.

Put in less whimsical terms I recently and increasingly realized I was spending far too much time on my device. I'd find myself reaching for it in any idle moment, as many do. And I never left such events feeling rewarded or fulfilled.

I think that part of what has cause this increased awareness is that in all my other computing I work in an almost completely text centric environment. Bowing to the need for the occasional use of a GUI based browser is about the only non-text interactions I have. But even with browsing most of what I do is done with a text only browser.

Also all my other computing devices are not always on/always connected devices.

This disparity between my normal computing devices and my smartphone I think really highlighted the differences. A growing frustration with the direction that Android is going is also in the mix. As many may know I De-Googled my life a while back and have been very happy for it. So my smartphone runs a Google free version of AOSP. With only apps from F-droid on it. So I'm heading in a more free (as in freedom) direction and every new version of Android that comes out does more and more to lock Android and to lock it to Google.

One of the first thing I noticed is that when working in a non-GUI environment I was more focused, more productive, and more task oriented. Where as on the phone everything felt muddled, unfocused and often meaningless.

I also do not like the treacherous nature of smartphones. As anyone who reads my blog will know privacy is a huge issue for me and smartphones simply leak far too much personal information.. So I had already been mulling what I would do when it was time to replace my current device. I did not want to get another smartphone.

So with all this going on and me recently building myself a small mobile computing device.. Much more of a MID then a smartphone and Linux based not Android based. I decided it was time to start saying good-bye to my smartphone.

Now there were some minor considerations that might have mean that I would have to keep the phone. At least for a while. But I wanted to minimize my use of it.

The first thing I did was transfer as much of the non-communication things I did on it over to my new MID (BTW also text centric), and even a few of the communication functions like Instant messaging.

That went well and I felt no real pain in doing so. Mostly what it did is give that overly attached part of me a mental safety net. "OK, phew, I still have all that, just on the other device"

The next step was turning off all non-critical notifications. If it wasn't something that absolutely required my immediate attention off went the notification. This step was amazingly successful. I quickly stopped looking at my phone all the time. Even the amount of checking it in the idle times dropped. I even started to lose the desire to keep it with me all the time.

After that came A big one. Pull every attention sucking, non-critical communication thing off the phone. All social media things gone from the phone. All games, gone. All those random interesting but ultimately time wasting apps, gone. Calendar, gone (have it on my MID now). Even the browser, Youtube player, etc.. gone.

This sounds rather radical but it was necessary if I was to say good-bye to my phone.. All that was left were things that deal directly with real time communications, and privacy enhancements. So basically phone, SMS (encrypted), GPS navigation, and contacts. Plus a few enhancements like firewall, ConnectBot and F-driod.

And. I didn't go nuts.. In fact my routines changed in pleasant ways. I no longer reached for the phone as soon as I woke up. No reason to. It often lay forgotten until I was about to head out for the day. I still check my social media but it is a much more intentional type of interaction which happens on my laptop while having my morning coffee, and ends once I'm caught up. Same with e-mail.

After another purge further stripping the phone down to nothing but basic phone features, and turning off WiFi, which went far better then I thought it would. I was ready to take the plunge. I ordered a $70 feature phone to replace my smart phone.

The phone arrived quickly and despite myself and others being concerned that I would end up ultimately being unhappy with the phone, quite the opposite has happened. Other then some initial pain learning how to TXT with T9 style input again, life is fine.

Although I can no longer easily do encrypted SMS only a few people ever got on board with that and most of what I send via SMS isn't anything that needs encryption. I don't really care if the powers the be see me asking my wife if we need bananas. For anything that requires encryption I can use the Instant Messanger on my MID.

I am actually loving the flip phone. It is smaller, lighter, better on battery, has a replaceable battery, feels and acts more phone like, and still is able to play my music and podcasts through my Bluetooth headphones. I do not need more. And best of all I got my life back. I'm no longer tied to a hugely expensive, privacy sucking, attention sucking, thing that is doomed to the landfill because the battery can not be replaced.

I even now turn the hone off when not in use. Imagine that. A life where I only get bugged by the outside world when I chose to. A world where I control how and when I talk to people or people talk to me. A world where I watch all the way through a TV show (or several) without ever two screening. A world in which when I'm with fiend I'm with them not split between them and my annoying smart thing.

I'd strongly suggest that other should try to follow in my path. Even if you only got as far as pairing back what is on the phone and limiting notifications to only the important ones I suspect you'd notice a large difference in your life. I certainly did.