Flipping back to fliphones

Students reflect on a phone-free lifestyle


Lucas Ribeiro

Senior Lauren Fisher reads a book on a sunny day “I still use electronics as entertainment, but it’s less of my first instinct,” Fisher said.

Lucas Ribeiro

“Is that a flip phone?” asks an enthusiastic freshman as senior Lauren Fisher walks by, her Alcatel SmartFlip in full display. Fisher is one of a few Jefferson students who has recently switched to a flip phone in a bid to combat cell phone addiction. 

The movement to drop smartphones has swept high schools around the country, as students gain greater awareness of their relationship with their mobile devices. tjTODAY interviewed 3 Jefferson students, who reflect on their experiences living without a smartphone. 

Lauren Fisher

Fisher switched to a flip phone after her iPhone broke last November, and she spent a few days without any phone at all. 

“It kind of made me realize how nice it is not to be tethered to a phone,” Fisher said.

Fisher mentioned that many of the services people use from their smartphone can still be accessed from a laptop or other device. 

“I can connect to Messenger and Instagram on my laptop. It made me realize that using a smartphone wasn’t essential to my life,” Fisher said.

The absence of a smartphone gives Fisher more control over when and where she uses social media. This has had positive ripple effects on her sleep. 

“With the flip phone, I have the ability to check in and check out of Facebook,” Fisher said. “When I’m about to go to bed, I used to scroll on my phone for half an hour, even if it was 2am. I’ve definitely cut that habit which has been really nice.” 

Like anything, giving up a smartphone is a tradeoff. 

“It is more difficult to communicate,” Fisher said, “Just now, my friend told me that she volunteered me for something that I didn’t know about because I couldn’t get to the group chat soon enough”

At the same time, Fisher mentions that the flip phone is not as archaic as one may think. 

“I was expecting flip phones to be pulled from 2002, but I’ve been surprised by how modern some of them are. It has YouTube. You can search the web. You can listen to music if you drive. It’s difficult enough to use that I don’t want to use it, but it’s there if I need to [do something].” 

Yasmin Kudrati-Plummer

Yasmin Kudrati-Plummer places a call on her Nokia. “If an awkward silence happens, [and] everyone pulls out their phone, my go to response is to try to initiate a further conversation. Occasionally, I’ll pull up my Nokia, just so I don’t feel left out,” Kudrati-Plummer said. (Lucas Ribeiro)

Unlike Fisher, junior Yasmin Kudrati-Plummer has never had a smartphone. This experience has changed her view ofthe world around her.

“The reason I am the way I am is partially because I don’t have a [smart] phone,” Kudrati-Plummer said. “It’s not necessarily by choice, but it has definitely made me view the world through this lens that I don’t think many people will ever go through, living in a society where [the] entire world is online and where we feel more secure with our devices on.”

One situation where living smartphone-free makes a major impact is during awkward moments, where ‘escaping into your smartphone’ has become a normalized behavior, despite its inconsiderate nature.

“I’ve noticed when an awkward conversation happens or a tiny awkward silence, the instinct of almost everyone is to pull out their phone immediately,” Kudrati-Plummer said. “I have to deal with awkward silences in ways a lot of other people don’t. I tend to try to continue the conversation, which is very much a struggle. People don’t even realize they’re doing it because they do it so often.”

The instinct of almost everyone is to pull out their phone immediately. I have to deal with awkward silences in ways a lot of other people don’t.

— Yasmin Kudrati-Plummer

These repeated negative experiences sometimes led to longer-term frustrations, especially when Kudrati-Plummer was younger.

“I remember being upset in the past when I had close friends go on their phones constantly,” Kudrati-Plummer said. “It became a problem for me because there’s nothing I can do to change the fact that people are addicted.”

Kudrati-Plummer mentions that despite the uncomfortable situations, the smartphone-free perspective has turned her into a better person.

“It’s definitely made me more mature,” Kudrati-Plummer said. “I don’t have a duty to my computer in public settings.”

Kudrati-Plummer urges others to spend a day or two without a smartphone and be more cognizant of the uncomfortable situations smartphone use creates.

“If I had an iPhone and I took it away from myself, I’d notice I’m doing the things that are annoying [to those without a smartphone]” Kudrati-Plummer said.

Liam Carey

Liam Carey uses his flip phone. “It makes me happier to not be always attached to the internet,” Carey said. (Lucas Ribeiro)

Senior Liam Carey, who like Kudrati-Plummer has never had a smartphone, recognizes the barriers of the lifestyle but mentions that his experience has been very positive.

“[My parents] got me my first phone, a flip phone, as I was going back to school in junior year,” Carey said. “I live under a rock. A massive rock. But I’m totally fine with that because it means I’m not chronically online and I spend more time on things I actually enjoy doing, like being outside or playing piano or theater.”

Outside of screen time differences, Carey mentions that ditching his smartphone provides a more keen sense of the world around him.
“I’m usually more concentrated. I like people watching and watching the scenery go by. I notice things about where I am—it makes me more observant,” Carey said.

Carey’s experience hints to another potential effect of ditching your smartphone: decreased social anxiety.

“It makes me more likely to reach out to people in person: even though I have social anxiety, I have to overcome that because I don’t have [constant] access to the internet and I think that’s a good thing,” Carey said.

While there are a few inconveniences from not having a smartphone, Carey, like Fisher, believes the tradeoff is worthwhile.

“There are times when people are trying to make a group chat and I can’t be added to it because my phone doesn’twork that way, so it does make [some situations] a little bit harder. But overall, it hasn’t been a great barrier. It connects me more than isolates me,” Carey said.

Carey believes everyone should experiment with the flip phone lifestyle.

“Absolutely switch. At least try switching because you never know what your life’s gonna be like,” Carey said.

A Healthy Movement

This trend away from smartphones follows a push from Fairfax County Public Schools to reduce the impact of smartphones on school environments. Jefferson recently implemented a policy that bans cell phone use during class time, and Principal Ann Bonitatibus is optimistic about the movement.

“Whenever there’s an addiction to anything, you first have to admit that there’s a problem. And then you have to commit to taking steps to work on the addiction,” Bonitatibus said. “People are now acknowledging that there’s been an addiction. They’re thinking ‘I need to change something in my life’, and they’re taking the steps to do that. It sounds like a very natural progression, and maybe a healthy one”