Gemma Styles: I Find Out What It’s Like To Ditch Your Smartphone For Good

Is ditching your smartphone for a 2004-era flip phone the secret to eternal happiness? I ask comedian Ari Shaffir, who's done just that...Photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Gemma Styles: I Find Out What It's Like To Ditch Your Smartphone For Good

by Gemma Styles |
Published on

Comedian Ari Shaffir ditched his smartphone in favour of a simpler life... with a flip phone. I know, right, like its 2004. I wanted to know what he found out.

What made you decide to give up your smartphone?

I was getting real lost in it. I couldn't put it down and live my life. Whether it was spending extra time in bed doing the facestagremailotterext rounds or being in the elevator or bar and avoiding strangers with it, I was not participating. I was wasting time and being alone. At first I developed this plan to get rid of my data plan, so I could only use the phone where I could connect to wifi. But then I lost my iPhone in a cab. And the decision was made for me. I tried a few smartphones for a week at a time and returned each one. And then I made the jump.

Do you think you were a pretty typical user beforehand or particularly dependent on your phone?

Both! I think the typical user is particularly dependent on their smartphones. I only noticed it once I made the switch. I don't think I've had a full one-on-one conversation with a friend for an entire meal since 2010.

What did you miss the most?

So much! I'm not gonna be one of those guys who tell you everything is better without a smartphone. There are so many things better on a smart phone. It's obvious. That's why people use them. I just don't think it's worth the negatives. Like for instance; directions. Directions are great now. Google Maps tells you where the traffic is and helps you perfectly find places you've never visited. But the negatives are we all keep glancing at our phones the entire drive, even in places we've been a hundred times, instead of looking at the neighborhoods we live and work in. We miss fun encounters on the side of the road. We neglect waving to our friends. All because we're busy making sure over and over again that we're still going the best route.

The cool thing is, almost anything else you need; movie times, restaurant reviews, pictures with friends. All those things can be done by the people in your life. When I had a smartphone I found myself in a battle to show we each had the best apps. We'd all take pictures with our own phones, we'd check our own reviews. So. I just cede control and let others do their own searches and trust them.

As a comedian do you think it's important for you to be on social media and promote yourself? Is there a huge pressure to make your tweets funny, for example?

Social media is important. Well, some social media sites. Facebook is unimportant. Twitter seems to matter for filling up rooms. And then a handful of comics have really succeeded on each site. But really only a few on each one. And of course you should make tweets funny. Those serious or political tweets suck ass. By the way, I can tweet from my flip phone. There's a text number you can send it to. I just can't check the responses.

Do you feel like giving up your phone has given you more insight into how other people depend on their devices?

Oh, for sure. I kind of answered this earlier but moving away from it showed me how bad I must have been. I saw Radiohead at a festival a few days ago and my buddy must have missed half of his favorite five songs while he was texting, taking pictures and posting them. And he's the one who wreally wanted to see them. Nobody is having experiences any more. They're pausing life to update their friends.

Is there an element of superiority in casting off the 'shackles' of the smartphone?

When I'm eating with 3 friends and there are moments that I see them all looking at their phones at the same time. At that concert when my friend misses his favorite song. When I watch people stop, take a picture of a flower, and then walk on without having actually seen it. Sure. I let myself feel superior. But in those moments I am superior. Most people would say the same. Sometimes, just for kicks, I'll lean in behind a friend who's missing something for their phone and I'll whisper, "Addict." over his shoulder so for a brief moment, he feels uncomfortable before he buries it again.

If you had to give up either texts or phone calls for good, which one would you choose?

I guess phone calls. There's too many people I need to talk to that I don't need to TALK to, if you get my drift. But there are some people I really would like to actually hear. So it wouldn't be an easy decision.

Finally, you're a comedian, tell us a joke about smartphones...

I don't know about jokes but when I drop my phone from three feet it doesn't cost me $600. And even if my flip does smash apart when I drop it, I can just smush it back together again and it works fine in 6-10 seconds.

So what have we learned? Giving up your iPhone can save you some money if you're clumsy, forces you to learn your routes off by heart and let you make your friends feel like lesser beings. As we've learned in the past, people who take pictures at concerts actually enjoy them more - but if you've been feeling too attached to your Android then maybe a smartphone detox might do you some good too.

See Ari Shaffir: Ari S-P-E-C-T at Heroes @ The Hive Cave from 5th-27th August, 6.30pm.

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Follow Gemma on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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