I turned my smartphone into a dumb phone and I’m greywebbing

Walmart does sell brick phones, but they’re proportionally overpriced when I consider the loss of Maps, cat emojis, and group texts. It costs $29.99 plus tax for the device, then unlimited talk and text (no data) is an additional $25 per month. Who knows what additional fees are tacked onto that, and also the service quality is unknown.

Currently, with Project Fi, I pay $20 per month for unlimited talk and text. Data is extra, but you literally only pay for precisely as much as you use, down to the KB. Last month I paid $1.24 for data because Yelp. There’s wifi everywhere. Especially at home, where I find myself frequently.

It just doesn’t make economic sense to downgrade to a brick phone, no matter how much I’ve romanticized life without notifications, especially when I factor in the inevitable loss I’d be selling my smartphone for. I’d be lucky to get $500 for it. Damn lucky. So I’m keeping the smartphone after all.

However, I did make a few changes in the spirit of my initial intention. First, I deleted every single app from my home screen, except the call icon. That way, when I unlock it, there are only 2 options: make a call or swipe up for more apps. Before, I had my calendar, email, most-used apps, and various widgets. Instant access. By adding that extra step of swiping up for apps, I force myself to stop and think about what I’m doing. Know thyself.

Next, I went deep into settings and Google permissions and basically turned off everything, including tracking because creepy. This means the only notifications that will get through are texts and calls. But I also removed the text icon from the home screen. I have a habit of wasting time with long text conversations. So I archived my text conversations and vow to just respond and not needlessly initiate (obv. I plan to maintain friendships, but I don’t plan to maintain them exclusively via text).

I would have also deleted all unnecessary apps, but I don’t have any unnecessary apps. Maybe the Amazon Shopping app is unnecessary, but until right now I forgot I had that downloaded. Maybe I will delete that too, as I could see myself getting distracted with that in a moment of desperation, especially when all the alternatives are things like online banking and proof of auto insurance.

Having a blank home screen helps because I do find myself picking up the phone for no reason except for habit, staring at my screen, and feeling this void. Everything is gone. It’s nice though. But I’ve become acutely aware of my mindless habit of touching my phone. Next, I’ll get phantom texts. Lovely. But really, it is precisely this habit that inspires my dumb phone aspirations. I’m turning my smartphone into a dumb phone to reclaim my time.

Now, I wait. In a week or a few weeks or maybe in a month I will check back in on my phone usage and see if I’ve been able to curb the amount of time I spend on the thing. So far, I’ve stayed off it virtually all day without issue (granted, I did spend my day finishing a Phillip K. Dick book which, sorry, fucking sucked).

Almost immediately after deleting my Facebook account yesterday, Mom texted me about it. How the hell did she figure it out so fast? Mom, do you read this blog? Comment below if you do. It feels a little as if there’s a running joke about it; I’ve been known to get on and off the site. I almost always quit out of boredom and perceived uselessness. Then I’ll get back on because I “have” to. Last year, I got back on because I needed to belong to a private group for my health coach program. In retrospect, I probably could have done without that group. Or the program.

The feeling I get after deleting myself from Facebook can best be compared to the feeling you get after stepping off the plane in a new country. Everything feels new and exciting and nobody knows you and you can be anyone and do anything and experience everything in your own time and nobody knows you’re vegan yet. I think that’s freedom.

Even though I hadn’t been posting recently and had more or less stopped using my account, it still gnawed at me in the back of my mind, like this static online presence to maintain. Kind of like those fucking dresses in my closet that don’t play any active role in my life other than needing to be got rid of.

But it’s more than Facebook. I’ve slowly been deleting other accounts, too. For example, I guess I had a Pinterest account. I totally forgot that I signed up for one so that I could view Sculpey clay cat earrings. I also deleted a Blinkist account when I got all excited about 4-minute book summaries. I’m tying up digital loose ends. Maybe someday I’ll go totally dark, but for now, it’s nice ebbing into the grey. This blog and Goodreads are my last real marks, minus a GitHub account that I could probably close too.

But holy shit have you ever Googled yourself? I did yesterday, during my greyweb (is that a thing? it’s my new name for this), and was able to find phone numbers, addresses, and all kinds of creepy shit. It’s unnerving. I then spent the entire afternoon reading privacy policies for corporations. Don’t ever do that if you enjoy the Interwebs. Unless you want to fuck with a VPN and downloading Tor and going all out. I’m not there yet, but only because I am lazy and not as paranoid as the blogs I sometimes read.


Wife, yogi, and cat mama living in the SF Bay Area.

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