Without a Smartphone

What is it like to live without a smartphone?

creator: x14km2d | build: 2021-12-01 | update: 2022-01-06

Essay

I am a person who very quickly accepts new technology and also tries it out. So I already had my own mobile phone in the 90’. A mobile phone was incredibly expensive, had few functions and also no real use among young people. You just had one and it was a status symbol. Initially, SMS was offered free of charge by the network providers, which was later discontinued due to the economic potential. Until then, young people had used this service extensively, just because the Internet was still very expensive. Then came the Futurephones and finally the Smartphones. Of course I also bought some. It fitted to all my social media accounts and I used a lot of apps to make my everyday life easier.

Unfortunately the idea with the social web turned out to be a bad one and so I deleted Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and co a few years ago. This all happened before it got really bad with all the privacy scandals, the fake news wave or the hate mobs raging through the social media like marauding orc hordes. I also started to find it really annoying that every Facebook Friend wanted to chat with me out of boredom. I really don’t like to chat and only in very rare cases, if at all two or three times a year in a certain IRC channel. Also the always needed attention for apps became really exhausting. Here an update (Android), here a new message (Facebook) or here a new follower request (Twitter). At some point I noticed that most of the time I just stared at my smartphone and talked less and less with people in reality. My body was at parties, but my head was reading some Internet articles. Why talk to people when they could send me a message on Facebook?

At some point I became more interested in data protection and researched which app calls home and which data is tapped. With each further article I became more and more aware that I was milked like a cow and am only a product. A frightening thought, which restricts my personal freedom to uninfluenced self-development. I was manipulated, my thoughts were twisted, my political views were swirled and again and again I had to ask myself the question, what corresponded at all still to the truth. Every provider, every click bait journalist just wanted to sell me his story. It wasn’t about enlightenment anymore, but about the tough business in which only money counts. Advertising adapted to my search process and wanted to sell me products that I didn’t want to buy and even ad blockers didn’t bring a real solution, because there was a constant upgrade between the ad business and the blockers. Just like with black hat’s and the police.

Of course, after some time politicians came up with the idea of what you can do with your smartphone. Bank details, my tickets for trains, paying for my shopping in the supermarket with NFC and maybe even my whole health record. That these people don’t think about the possible consequences can be seen in the current data protection scandal. Instead of producing less data, they would rather set up a cyber police force. What a stupid idea. Old white men want to decide what to do with my smartphone. It’s all about surveillance and producing more data to be stored in more databases. After industry, politics now also wants to use this valuable resource. I am to be further exploited like a slave. I don’t want to hang like a junkie on a smartphone needle just waiting for the next fake news info push. I don’t want everyone to know exactly when I did what, how and where. I want my private sphere back, because I no longer trust industry and politics. With the politicians in Germany I have no sympathy, now they have to swallow the bitter medicine which the German citizens have to take the whole time.

I started the self-experiment and put my smartphone in a drawer. At some point the battery was empty and I had forgotten it faster than I had expected. I was still at parties or dates because I didn’t have a smartphone, but for a few minutes most people could understand why I decided against it. I also realized how difficult it is for most people to get by without a smartphone. Since I grew up before this hardware, it seems to be easier for me. Maybe I just thought about it more. In any case, the device then lay in the locked drawer for a year or two and slowly set dust on. I turned it on once, but nothing had changed. It produced immediately again the negative feelings which I did not want to have. Yesterday I stowed it in the hardware cabinet, with the things that will soon be brought to the basement anyway. A broken toy Drone from Asia, a old Fitbit bracelet or the handheld radio without antenna and lots of another junk. Some things might find a new home in another hacking project, the smartphone rather not. The components are much too small and I have enough displays. I could use it for ebooks, but I would have to install an app first and I don’t really want to do that. I’m not going to buy a smartphone anymore and that’s another practical advantage. What I don’t have can’t be monitored and geolocated by secret services or criminals.

Another Two Years later.

Two years passed after I wrote the paragraph above. Two years in which I spent most of my time in my room and worked from there. I didn’t need to be mobile anymore, because Covid-19 kept me from it. That’s why I didn’t need a smartphone anymore, because I could do everything from home. If I was out and about, for example, to get a vaccination, I could text or make a phone call from my Dollar Store cell phone. Did I need a smartphone for that? No! Was I bored on the road. No, because I was reading more books again instead of following the latest NEWS in apps or talking to friends. They had other things to worry about and we all enjoyed taking a break from the daily gossip. This deadly pandemic also has its good sides. I still tried to tweet from my desktop computer, but somehow it wasn’t the same. What was I actually doing with my smartphone all the time I was using it?

I have asked myself this question super often in the last two years. Actually, I only used my smartphone for consumption and creative processes were prevented by the always online, always informed. I simply had no time to be creative. A smartphone is not designed for that either, because the screen is too small and there is no good user interface. I can still work better with a mouse and keyboard than, for example, swiping a nice graphic with my finger in some kind of app while an ad banner is shown to me every few seconds. That was also a point that always bothered me. I was constantly being shown ads and offered something. Buy a new car, diapers for your child and go on vacation. I don’t have a car, don’t want to have children, and I find vacations exhausting to unbearable. I never missed the advertising.

What I noticed when I was out and about was how surprised people looked at me when they asked for my number and I didn’t have a smartphone, app or social media account to reach me on. Did I make fewer contacts or good business as a result. I don’t think so. Anyway, I didn’t notice a significant difference. Sometimes I even feel like if I’m not as easy to reach, it makes me seem more interesting as a business partner or as a person. When someone asked me how to reach me, I started to answer: If your question is important enough, it will reach me somehow. and it is true. People make more effort when you set the hurdle higher for them. I build contacts through my contacts, people have had word of mouth messages come to me, etc. Everything went super slow. Since I no longer have a smartphone, I can set the pace for when I want to communicate with people. People who can’t be patient are in most cases bad communication partners anyway. I expect from people who want to talk to me that they want to invest their important life time in a conversation with me only if they really have time for it.

Smartphones have not helped me communicate better, but have shown me that most communication with people is super unimportant. Can I ask you something? No! Can I talk to you for a moment? No! Can I send you a quick draft or idea via email, Slack or Discord? No! I don’t want to know anything, because you’re not that important. Since the advent of smartphones, the bad habit of always having to be available to everyone seems to have developed. No, I don’t have to. You are not the center of the universe for me and if I don’t feel like talking to you, you will have to accept that willy-nilly. That already annoyed me back then(TM) at ICQ or in IRC. Don’t write to me just because you are bored. I expect from you that you have enough to do to occupy yourself with yourself. Without a smartphone I can establish this incredibly wonderful freedom of I’m not available for you and about the latest gossip I also have no idea. I’m not going to give that up again. Because I’ve also become much more relaxed. I don’t get upset so quickly anymore and don’t get carried away by any digital emotional zunami and then prefer to listen to nature, the birds or other interesting things.

Two years have passed and retrospectively I have only now realized how toxic the smartphone was for me. Not only for my data or privacy, but also for my psyche. I can work on my projects in peace because I don’t feel like I’m looking at my smartphone every few minutes. When I’m out and about, I’m moving much more in reality, observing, talking and learning about situations and people. I don’t know if you can compare a smartphone to a drug addiction, but somehow I feel clean. Since I was never a drug addict, I don’t have a constructive comparison there. Without a smartphone, I feel more in my soul center of the universe. Also, the toxic people in my circle of friends are gone. There are patterns there. A smartphone is the perfect tool for bullying, stress and false rumors that sometimes even reach psychological terror. Without a smartphone, I escape this attack surface and am no longer available for toxic feelings. What do I care what people talk about me on social media. That’s their bubble, not mine. No one can send me a dm once in a while anymore to ask me if I really said this or that. Most of the time this is not true and is made up bullshit. People with boredom who are dissatisfied with their miserable lives want to drag you down to their level so they don’t feel so miserable anymore. Everyone feels better when they know someone who is worse off than they are. No thanks. Wallow in your own shit, because I’d much rather take care of my interesting, exciting, and sometimes a little exhausting life. Without a smartphone, I finally have time for myself again.


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