People Joke About Doing This With Their Phone, I Actually Did It

I was doing my usual routine of scrolling through Instagram while eating my lunch when I saw a truly disturbing image: The now-10-year-old boy I used to babysit had an Instagram. His profile was private, of course, and while it made me cringe (oh, the photos I'm so thankful aren't on social media), it also drummed up some old memories.

I didn’t have a cell phone until freshman year of high school. I started off with a BlackBerry that had the data turned off, and eventually moved on to a Nokia brick with sides that lit up, and then a Motorola Razr. With unlimited text messaging, it became my go-to for flirting with boys or “bitching out” my friends. Any photos I took are long, long forgotten. Simpler times.

Then I started to wonder: What if I went back to a flip phone? Could I actually do it, or would my work suffer? I work in social media, and I use my iPhone for everything, both professionally and personally. I snap, tweet, post on Instagram, and most importantly, email all damn day. What would happen when I was sent an urgent email? Or if there was something that I just had to snap or post?

After having no luck finding an old phone from my coworkers, I grabbed a pink Motorola Razr from eBay. My plan: For seven days, I’d go back to using a Razr. No smartphone allowed. I could use my computer for social media at work, but for any situation in which I’d normally use my phone, I’d now be using this early 2000s relic.

I sent an email to my immediate team and let them know about this experiment… And I added that if they needed to reach me urgently, they’d need to text me. Then I got started.
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
Day 1: T9 Is Cute! Wait, Never Mind.
After asking the Verizon representative approximately 200 questions on chat, I felt confident in officially making the switch. It was actually pretty easy.

I turned on the phone, and to my delight, it looked exactly the same as I remembered. But with no way to automatically transfer my contacts, I added only the most important people to my new/old phone by hand: my family, partner, and a few friends.

Texts started coming in and I thought, Okay, this is cute. I can do this. I got ready as usual, and just as I was about to walk out, I wondered if it was going to rain. I reached for my phone in my back pocket — a reflex — and realized I’d have to check on my laptop.

Texting is hard to get used to, but I’m totally loving T9… At least, that's what I thought for the first few hours. Then it stopped being cute. It didn’t recognize “fuck” or other profanities I often use. And people who were texting me didn’t remember that messages come in one at a time. I am conditioned now (as others are, too) to send multiple messages at a time without even thinking about it. This phone would freeze when it received more than three at a time.

After work, I met a friend from college for drinks, but I didn’t have her number. We had made plans via Facebook chat, and when I arrived, I couldn’t call her. I waited outside for 15 minutes and when she didn’t show, I decided to take another look around the bar. I found her in the back and we had a drink.

Already, I noticed how little I was texting my family and friends. It was weird. I fell asleep at 10 p.m. because there was no one to talk to and no social to look at. That was a perk, I guess.
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
Day 2: Living Like It's 2010
I was so afraid of not hearing my alarm clock (and setting it in the first place), that I asked my sister to call me at 8 a.m. just in case I didn't wake up. Luckily, I woke up naturally and just turned the alarm off.

It was my best friend’s birthday, and normally I’d post a funny photo on Instagram to wish him a happy birthday. I wrote on his wall instead. (Bummer, since I usually take birthdays as an opportunity to post a super embarrassing photo.) I also normally set reminders on my calendar constantly (I’m forgetful as hell), but adding them into the little tiny calendar on the Razr was nearly impossible. I added one event to my cal and gave up on the rest.

I noticed that the phone battery actually wasn’t as amazing as I had remembered. I felt like back in middle school, I wouldn’t charge my phone for days. Then I realized that I probably text way more now than I did back then. And when I got multiple messages and the phone froze, that killed my battery.

To listen to music on my commute, I brought back my iPod nano from my senior year of high school. All the music was from 2010, which was both a treat and a punishment. I wonder how I looked with a Razr in one hand, iPod in the other.

At 11 a.m., I have a weekly one-hour meeting. Remember that alarm I set? Well, it went off while my boss was presenting. I had switched the phone’s sounds off in settings, but evidently, that doesn’t apply for calendar events. I died of embarrassment inside and fumbled my phone closed. Five minutes later, it went off again. I must have pressed snooze instead of dismiss. Crawled into a hole of self-hatred...

The rest of the day went…fine. Texting was difficult, but doable. I started writing down calendar reminders rather than setting them on my phone.

I fell asleep pretty early again.
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
Day 3: Missing Modern Conveniences
I woke up and got to work and saw that Frank Ocean’s visual album was out on Apple Music. I only have a login on my phone and not on my work computer. I’d waited too damn long for this, and I couldn't even view it!

And by then, my coworkers had started to tease me mercilessly for not having Instagram. “I tagged you in something, but…” was something I was hearing a lot. Then, for no reason, my Razr stopped getting or sending texts. I restarted. (We all know that’s how you fix a tech problem.)

After work, my team and I headed to happy hour. We settled on a place by the water. It was gorgeous. I took one photo... and it looked like garbage. As a notorious Instagrammer, this was tough for me.

Afterwards, I had dinner plans and I had my coworker text me directions — a 25-minute walk. Somewhere along the way, I got lost. I called my partner and asked him for the cross streets of the restaurant and hailed a cab.

Sure, I could deal with no Instagram and Snapchat. But not having Uber was kind of brutal, especially since this was during commuting hours, when Uber pool is $5 in the city. I sucked it up and paid the $18 cab fare.

After dinner, I walked to my best friend’s birthday party at a bar. Luckily, I was with people who could order an Uber home. Was that cheating? I didn’t care, I needed that.
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
Day 4: Getting Used To The Limitations
It was Saturday, and I’d been nervous about being smartphone-less during the weekend. I had plans to meet two of my friends for brunch. I looked up directions and wrote them down.

They were 20 minutes late to lunch. Usually I’d wait and scroll through Instagram. But that day, nope. I just stewed in my anger. (Listen, hanger is a very real thing.)

After brunch, we walked through the West Village on our way to the Whitney. Again, so many Instagram photo opps. So many beautiful streets, houses, and stores. I waited as my friends snapped a few times.

At the Whitney, I started taking photos with my Razr. Hey, I wanted to remember these exhibits, too! They were obviously low quality, but I was surprised at how okay they looked. Maybe I'd been conditioned.

I took the subway home, then rode my bike to Trader Joe’s to go grocery shopping for the week and grab a few snacks for friends who were coming over later that night. When I got home, I sent them a group chat on Facebook to let them know when to come over.

My friend thought it was funny that I was receiving texts individually. He sent me 10 in a row. My battery life cut in half and my phone froze. Great.

Once my friends arrived, it was time to put on some music. Usually, I connect my phone to my speakers via Bluetooth to listen to my Spotify playlist, but I went with my laptop instead. Then, one ordered an Uber, since, yep, you guessed it, I didn’t have the app. She split it with our other friend, and I told her I'd Venmo her in a week. (Damn, I missed Venmo!)

But when I got to the bar and whipped my phone out to text, everyone was pleasantly surprised by my Razr and they were feeling the nostalgia hardcore, too. It was such a big part of our middle- and high-school days that everyone had a memory connected to this phone.

At the end of the night, it was time to head home. I realized I didn’t have directions, so I walked back to the bar and asked my friend if I could use Google Maps on her phone. Then I walked home.
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
Day 5: The Isolation Was Getting To Me
It was Sunday, and by then, I was getting really, really tired of my phone. It was so annoying to text that I'd stopped doing it altogether.

I walked to the bookstore in my neighborhood and picked up a new book. I also walked to the doughnut truck next to it and grabbed an apple cider doughnut. Then, I walked to my favorite coffee shop and ordered an espresso. I sat and read for a bit.

I walked home, made breakfast, and read more on my fire escape. I was bored. Listen, I love to read and be outside — don't get me wrong — but I wasn't used to feeling so isolated from my friends and family.

I decided to get a haircut and took the train to my salon. I called my sister when I got lost. Afterward, I met my partner at another bookstore in the area. Then, we decided to head to my apartment, and I started texting my sister and friends on his phone.

Was that cheating? I didn’t care. It felt so good to send multiple messages. I started looking through Instagram, too. I checked my profile, saw what I’d been tagged in, and responded to people’s comments on his phone. Yeah, I was definitely cheating.
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
Day 6: Totally Over It
Back to work on Monday. I read my book on the subway instead of listening to music.

I got into work and asked my editor if I could quit this experiment a day early and told her that I literally couldn’t do it. I was really itching to use my phone. She told me I should try to go the full week. So I agreed.

The day went along as usual. Luckily, work wasn’t so bad with a flip phone, since I was mostly looking at things on my laptop, anyway.

Then, my dad sent me a picture message. I told him I couldn't see it, and to email it to me. He sent it to me again. I called him and told him to send it to my email. Then, my mom sent it to me. All I could see was “media message” in my texts. Then my brother texted me a link. I told him I couldn't open it, and to email it to me, too. My patience was running thin. I gave up.

I started dreaming about turning my smartphone on again and seeing my Instagram notifications and who snapchatted me. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true.

I went home, made dinner, read, and headed to bed.
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
Day 7: A Joyful Reunion
I woke up and decided to do yoga. I wanted to go for a run that morning, but I wouldn’t have been able to track my distance without the app I use. And I love listening to podcasts while I run. I could have added them onto my iPod, but decided I was too lazy for that. So I did yoga instead.

And then… I caved. I turned my iPhone back on at 9:40 a.m. I was supposed to try to keep it off until mid-afternoon at least, but there was a particularly snapchattable event going on at work, and I couldn't resist the temptation.

It was beautiful. It was shiny, it was bright, and my messages were blue and plentiful. I could send two, three, four messages in a row with no problem! I could screenshot things again! I could take photos!

I texted my best friend and my family to say that I was back, and they responded with relief. I snapchatted a photo of the Razr and posted one on Instagram, and it felt so, so good.

At 12:38 p.m., three hours later, I was still checking social obsessively. I’d earned it, okay?
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
So…what exactly did I learn?

Our lives in 2016 are not built for a phone that reached its peak in the early aughts. There were perks: It felt thrilling to hold one in my hand, to pick up calls, and most importantly, to hang up calls with one swift motion. It was nice to go to bed early and release myself from the pressure of keeping in touch 24/7.

But that’s the thing: Talking to my family and friends keeps me feeling sane. I actually like being constantly connected to them. I love social media. I love to tag people in memes. Sue me for it!

And, while I definitely missed social media, I missed the more useful apps most. Staples such as Weather, Venmo, Google Maps, Citibank, Spotify, and the Google Cast apps are built to make our lives more convenient, and they do.

There are plenty of people who don’t have smartphones. Or phones at all. I recognize my privilege in having one, and the problems I ran into without a smartphone were minuscule in the grand scheme of things. But in that week, I got lost, felt incredibly lonely at times, and became increasingly frustrated and anxious. The temporary escape to the simple life wasn't worth it.

To the generations before me that could happily live smartphone-free, I commend you. But in the world that I live in, with my job and my relationships, giving up this piece of technology was more of a nuisance than a feeling of freedom. This is how my life functions, and that’s okay.
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