Yes, You Can Use A Smartphone And Be A Minimalist
This is part of my series: American Zombie: How To Stop Being A Mindless Consumer.
Online, there’s a small army of minimalists who advocate we all ditch our smartphones in favor of dumb phones. They claim and proclaim that we ought to do this because it’ll simplify our lives.
And I’ll be honest, I have some idealistic notions of switching to a dumb phone. Modern life is too complicated, and I want to untether myself from all of this technology. I want to simplify my day-to-day existence so there’s more time for things I really care about.
Well, two months ago, my smartphone died (the motherboard fried, and I couldn’t replace it). I could switch to a dumb phone and align my actions with my ideals. But would it be worth it?
After thinking about this for way too long, I realized that my smartphone does a few essential jobs for me. These jobs include:
- Tracking my steps which is vital for my health
- GPS which is useful when driving somewhere new
- Playing audiobooks while I walk, stretch, and wash dishes
- Allowing me to read ebooks when I go places and end up waiting for stuff
- Sending me calendar notifications which are important because I’m absent-minded
A smartphone makes my life better because of the jobs it does. (I also don’t have any games or social media on my phone, limiting the downsides of a smartphone.)
Now your situation may be different. A smartphone might make your life worse, in which case, don’t use a smartphone!
My only suggestion is to consider the jobs your phone should do. Should it:
- Include GPS and maps?
- Enable group texting?
- Allow you to read books?
- Track steps and calories?
- Play podcasts and audiobooks?
- Support secure texting with apps like Whatsapp or Signal?
- Take high-resolution photos/videos and sync them with the cloud?
- Include productivity apps like Slack, email, and calendar notifications?
I might sound like I’m secretly promoting smartphones. But I’m really not! Smartphones and dumb phones are just tools. Both have the potential to make your life better or worse. And you should pick the tool that makes your life better.
There’s no shame in using a smartphone. You’re not less of a person or less of a minimalist because you use this particular tool.
Similarly, it’s completely fine to use a dumb phone. You don’t need anyone’s permission to use a specific tool, just as no one else needs your permission to use their tools.
Everyone should use whatever tools make their life better. And everyone should stop worrying about which specific tools others use.
That’s my two cents.
Thanks to Britton Broderick, Nelson Wittwer, and Thomas W. for reading drafts of this post.