Sometime last week, I was sitting around a conference table shooting the breeze with some office-mates when one of them pulled out this sleek, blue, camera-included flip phone. I was floored.
I had been babbling to my friends about a collective return to flip phones for the few weeks before this meeting of my dreams. Ever since the iconic movie "Spotlight," a part of me couldn’t forget about the unspoken cool of Mark Ruffalo, fulfilling moral integrity with what might just be a 2001 gem of a Nokia.
I really think going back to the Motorola Razor as the apex of everyday tech would be a positive move, but most people are taken aback at the idea. Ever since the original iPhone, the gorilla-glass domino effect has produced faster, smarter technology that upends the way the entire world does business — gets news, pays bills, finds directions, pursues romantic interests, hails cabs, for example. Smartphones instrumentally caused dynamic shifts in our social and economic modus operandi.
That’s because a lot of things about smartphones are really, really convenient. I’ve never actually remembered to bring my insurance card to Boynton, but they’re perfectly fine with a photo on a camera roll. I can respond to email on the go, get headline updates, Google things as a hobby and beat my friend in our daily race to the New York Times mini-crossword. And now, we’ve even made it past UofM Secure.
But there are disadvantages, too. Pediatricians report that children are now starting school without the basic motor skills to hold a pencil. Dating apps like Tinder tend to instill the idea that people and sex are a judgmental buffet. Concentration takes a surprisingly hurtful blow with every notification — University of California Irvine research found that it takes 23 minutes to pick it back up.
I, too, have a smartphone. In high school, a friend gave me his old iPhone 5 — and if anyone tries to tell you that iPhones only last two years, don’t believe the hype. This thing works just fine (although the Snapchat update got bad reviews, so I’m pretty sure it’s not worth the Hail Mary.) The idea that we all need the newest phone is, quite frankly, a social construct. And maybe even the newer it is — the faster and easier it is to use — the more it distracts us from eating our vegetables: fun phones can often interrupt focus on our work or even the people we’re standing in front of, talking to — not to mention the ease of access during meetings and lectures.
Flip phones are already making a niche comeback. The market’s trying to phase them out completely, so it’s roughly the same price as to have a smartphone. Still, this kind of consumer base has spoken: Nokia has the 3310 "Brick," which is the Zeus of a phone. It’s at Best Buy.
If I can logistically afford the detachment, I want the flip-phone ethos. If you need to contact someone, call them. If they’re busy, they won’t pick up. Leave a message — the voicemail robot lady is our friend. Remember, we made it to the moon with the technology of the sixties. Texting won’t be gone — in middle school, you and I knew when to hit 3 like there was no tomorrow. Maybe the reason Mark Ruffalo’s character and all his colleagues did so much good work was because their jobs didn’t entail updating Twitter every half hour.
And I’m sure new phones make great gifts.