I Have a Confession to Make…I Once Again Have a Smartphone

When I started this blog, one of my first posts was about how and why I went back to a flip phone. For three years, I had a flip phone, and honestly, I loved it! I was able to make phone calls and text through T9 (Remember that?), but that was just about it. No email, no Twitter, no Facebook, not even really any picture taking capabilities that would be worthwhile.

Yet, here I am, letting you know that I once again have a smartphone.

How could I have switched back?

You might be thinking, “What a fraud!”

But, this wasn’t done out of a longing to bring back my technology addiction (although it sort of has). What led me to this decision is a little more complicated than a simple switch back.

The Flip Phone Switcheroo

For the previous three years, my wife and I were both on a Verizon plan. I was paying a flat-rate $20 fee for my basic phone. Within that time, I was using old basic phones from roughly anywhere between 2008-2012. This method worked well, except for the fact that many of these older model phones just weren’t lasting. I would activate a phone, and for about 3 or 6 months, it would work fine. But, inevitably, the screen wouldn’t turn on, a button would stop working, or I wouldn’t be able to hear anything from the person on the other end of the line.

This was all an inconvenience, but it was also a pretty quick fix. I just found another old flip phone from my parents, friends, or whoever else I could find that had one collecting dust. Getting old basic phones was never an issue because nobody else wanted them anymore. They were happy to get them out of their junk drawers. I would bring the broken phone along with the new (to me) one to Verizon and they would switch it over, free of charge. Ten minutes later, I was out the door with a working flip phone and all was good.

Until this last time. I went into Verizon to switch phones and they told me that they could no longer switch between 3G phones. Verizon has started to introduce 5G capabilities and all of the older 3G models will eventually be obsolete.

The Search for a New Phone

Without a working “3” button on my phone, I needed to make a decision fairly soon. I looked into purchasing a brand new flip phone but was shocked to find out that they cost over $100 each. The Verizon representative basically told me that the company makes their money off of smartphones and data usage, so there were very few deals on basic phones to discourage people from buying them. Additionally, my plan would go up from $20/month to $30/month.

I looked around at other carriers and MVNOs, but none of them had appealing plans for basic phones, and none of them were compatible with the hand-me-down basic phones I already had.

My next step was to search for a cheaper, new flip phone. I quickly came to find out that this is very difficult to come by. Many of the lower cost carriers do not offer any plans with flip phones or the basic phones were fairly expensive. It’s aggravating that an inferior piece of technology can sometimes cost more.

Consumer Cellular

I came across Consumer Cellular (yep, the one with all those ads for senior citizens) and thought I had finally figured out a solution. They offered two flip phones for $20-$30 and a very reasonable plan. My monthly bill would only be about $20/month. However, when the flip phone finally came, I realized that it didn’t even have T9 texting capabilities. As you can tell, I am far from picky when it comes to a cell phone, but having to laboriously type each letter into the phone every time I needed to send a text was a huge pain.

I thought about just not texting, but that is almost impossible these days. Almost every conversation I have with both friends and family is through text, so it wasn’t really feasible. Additionally, I looked at the possibility of just sucking it up and typing out the words, but this was taking so long, that it was counterproductive. I wound up spending the same amount of time attempting to type texts that I would have spent on apps on a smartphone. In other words, I was still wasting time, just in a different way. By Day 2, I knew I had to return the flip phone.

I finally realized that a smartphone was the only sensible option from a financial standpoint. I ended up sticking with Consumer Cellular, but this time getting a Motorola smartphone. (Don’t ask which model, because I have no idea.) The cheapest model was the best one for me. The phone only cost $30. I now have the most basic plan possible, with 250 minutes, unlimited texts, and 250MB of data. The monthly bill comes to about $23 with fees.

What Has Changed?

Financially, I’m in the same boat as I was. It doesn’t cost me any more or less than when I had a flip phone. I also only have 250MB of data, so I’m never on my phone when I’m out of the house. But, the difference maker for me is that like any smartphone, I can connect to WIFI and do everything on the phone.

When I had a smartphone, I would check my mail or social media occasionally when I happened to be at a computer or if I made the conscious effort to go over to the iPad and check. As a result, when I was home, I was rarely online.

Unfortunately, slowly but surely, that has changed. I find myself checking my phone more and more frequently. I spend more time on Twitter than I would like to. While some of the time is spent trying to do work for the blog, there is still a good chunk of unproductive time. And while some people think there is nothing wrong with being on Twitter or Facebook or anything else, I do. I can’t justify being in front of a screen when it takes away from the time I have with the people I love. I enjoy spending time outside and being active rather than having my eyes locked on a phone screen.

So, What Can I Do?

How do I fix this? I’m not happy with the fact that I’m back to my old ways with technology. Recently, I wrote a post analyzing the costs of a technology addiction, yet here I am, slowly inching in that same direction.

I don’t like the fact that my wife has noticed how much more often I’m on my phone.

The fact that I’ve felt that desire every five minutes to check my phone to see if I have a new follower or to see if anyone has mentioned me in a tweet really bothers me.

I find myself checking google analytics all the time, constantly wondering if people are on my site, and if so, what page they are looking at.

Even if I’m doing work for the blog, it doesn’t matter. I created this blog to share my story. I also really enjoy the therapeutic aspect of writing. It has been very helpful to write out my thoughts and ideas. Overall, this blog has been a blessing. I’m glad I created it.

But I have to change my mindset. Trying to market my posts to gain more followers and publicizing the blog on Twitter are necessary to a degree, but it’s not why I started the blog.

The Purpose of this Blog

I started this blog because I believe in minimalism and leading a more simple and intentional lifestyle. I have become happier over the last few years by taking a more mindful approach to my life. My goal with this blog from the very beginning was to try to explain and share that with others so that maybe someone else could find the same happiness that I have enjoyed.

I didn’t start the blog to become rich. I had no dreams of viral posts or hundreds of thousands of followers. I’m not here to sell you anything. Would I like to make money off of this site? Sure, I suppose I would. Who wouldn’t? But that is not, nor will it ever be, what this is for.

I’m a teacher. I got involved in education primarily for the purpose of helping people. I love the feeling of making a difference, as corny as that may sound. With teaching, sometimes your impact is obvious and sometimes it is much more subtle, but it’s always there, and that’s what I love about this profession. I really believe that’s who I am. From early on in my life, I have always really, really enjoyed helping other people. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying and nominate me for sainthood. I’m far from perfect and I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes. In fact, I think that a major reason why I enjoy helping others so much is what I get out of it. It’s a somewhat selfish thing.

But that same character trait led me to create this blog. Ultimately, I really just hope to help people.

New Smartphone Resolutions

So, since it seems I will have a smartphone for the foreseeable future, I want to be sure that I don’t let it become a distraction to the important things in my life, namely my wife and kids. I have created a couple of smartphone resolutions for myself.

First off, I have deleted all of the apps on my phone that I find distracting. I still have a few because I do not check them incessantly and I feel that they are helpful at times, but the others have to go.Goodbye Twitter, Facebook, and Google Analytics. I will still use all of these services, but getting rid of the apps will make it more of a conscious decision.

Secondly, I am once again going back to my original idea of putting my phone on the counter when I first get home. Already, all of my notifications are disabled, so the only reason it will make noise would be if I get a phone call or text message — two things for which I don’t mind being interrupted. This way, my phone sits on the counter, and once again, it’s a conscious decision to go over to it to check email or social media.

I think these two steps will work. While it’s not the ideal situation for me, I do think it will help keep me aligned with my priorities.

How about you? What steps have you taken to limit the time on your smartphone?

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