“Interesting,” commented the checkout lady noticing my tiny, black flip phone. “Yeah, I like to sort of hold on to this,” I smiled. It’s true – my basic cell phone leaves acquaintances intrigued. I carry labels like ‘luddite’ and ‘hypocrite’. Someone even called me out at a party to corner and prove me wrong.

Living in Silicon Valley where the religion is to lap up every new upgrade doesn’t help either. However, for my own life’s set up, I believe a flip phone suffices for the most part.

My husband carries a smart phone. And we decided one smart phone was adequate in the family for use on weekends. But why am I made to feel like I am alienating society?

My Smartphone-Free Life

I spend a lot of time in a day with my kids, and holding off on a smartphone paves the way to model the rationed-screen-time I preach. Smartphone-free, I’m less distracted when I hang out with them. Being idle while I’m at their after-school classes also gives me an incentive to read a book, people watch, stare into the sky, oversee them perform, or make connections with parents around.

Another aspect I’ve come to appreciate is how family conversations transpire. When we don’t know, or forget information, we rack our brains together – we don’t just look it up! It makes us think, guess, work as a team, and learn from a process. Not having the answer or information a swipe away has, at many times, led to discussions that are organic and valuable, and sometimes even hilarious. At least we know what we know, or don’t, and nurture a culture of having to think, analyze, and discover rather than succumb to an urge to have the answer instantly delivered.

I’m sure there’s a diametric argument to counter everything, and I’m neither advocating a dumb phone nor denouncing a smartphone. This is simply my story. I’m on the internet significantly, I just don’t happen to walk around with it. I do borrow my husband’s smartphone when I have a strong need, and the family relies heavily on it for a few things like weather forecasts, driving directions, and music playlists.

However, we try to reason out our dependencies, and target our consumption based on need. If there’s an imaginary spectrum ranging from cave-man to over-use, I think we’ve come to place ourselves in an optimal point for us, which I believe is a more balanced stance. Additionally, I’m aware of the increasing demand to be connected in these times, and the tons of everyday conveniences like Uber or WhatsAapp. The day I’m compelled to catch up with the ever-digitizing world and finally acknowledge its omnipresence (which is probably just around the corner), I will own and carry a pretty good smartphone without shame. Well, one instance of getting stranded without a GPS should do it! However, until then, should I have to justify my dumb phone use?

And then, I think about my kids and how the issue is even more applicable in their lives. Needless to say, there’s peer pressure and living up to metrics when it comes to owning gizmos and using apps, even more among kids. How do you handle it when your kid is the only one that does not use or carry a popular-technology for reasons you strongly believe in? Are we making their digital choices based on individual need or as a response to social pressures?

Our Digital Habits and Choices

Today, adults and kids alike, have very diverse digital habits and preferences. Very similar to dietary choices like being vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, nut-free, low-carb or low-sugar.  The same goes with digital diets. There’s going on and off Facebook, or bingeing on Netflix, or going paleo with print. Some people are low-Twitter, some are zero-Instagram. Some are selfie-free and some hashtag-heavy.

I believe there should be no judgement or labeling, or fitting in, when it comes to what gadgets we choose to use. I wish we all see technology as a measure of progress for mankind and not of an individual’s progress. I hope we respect each other’s personal preferences and teach our kids to be respectful of other’s choices as well. Because, at the end of the day, to each his own is fundamental to coexistence, even in the digital world.

Featured Image Source: Flickr

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