In recent years, a transgressive trend with technology has been born. Not that of the usual skeptics, closer to neoludism, but rather another made up of those who were immersed in the creation of software and services, or were simply very intensive users, and at a given moment they decided get out of that car and start to dose your digital consumption a lot, when not to cut it off.
A great example is in ‘The Social Dilemma’, the Netflix documentary in which several former employees of Silicon Valley’s big tech companies show their regret for having contributed to a world that moves to the beat marked by social networks. In bad plan. Many of them formed the ‘Center for Humane Technology’, with Tristan Harris at the helm, and now they call for a responsible and conscious use of technology.
They are right.
With the people in front of us physically and no one else
Lately I’ve been thinking about what the Internet was like twenty years ago and how it is now. Before, “Internet” was a specific space in our living room, or in our bedroom. The one that occupied the CRT monitor connected to the modem. The Internet was a dedication in a specific space and time. Today it is something ubiquitous and permanent, and no one has taught us to live with it, we are society betatester of one of the greatest social changes in recent centuries: life in constant connectivity.
I begin to feel that this permanent connection has a lot of positive, but not 24/7. That is why I decided to find ways to get out of it, especially in social moments, such as dinners with friends or family, moments with my partner, etc. Moments in which not to be exposed to the temptations in the form of social networks and various websites, nor to their notifications I considered the following scenarios:
- Turn off the mobile or leave it at home. I am not comfortable with the idea that someone may require me for something really important and not be reachable for hours.
- Turn off mobile data. That leaves me very close to circumstances such as “oh, I put them for a moment to see what we do” in a timely manner and finish them off.
- Leave the mobile at home and use the watch with eSIM. That would imply receiving notifications from applications that I could not access, and perhaps therefore making the feeling of “I’m missing something”, manageable, become “something is happening that I am aware of but I cannot act.”
So I opted for a fourth way:
- Get a small non-smart mobile phone, only with calls and SMS. There is no global solution, it is not even a problem for everyone, but I understood that for me it was the best.
A difficult one: which is the “best” non-smart mobile phone? One not very thick, with infinite battery, etc. I only need calls + SMS + agenda, the rest does not matter.
— Javier Lacort (@jlacort) September 13, 2020
I ended up with a Nokia 3310 in my hands. The one from 2017, which already has some multimedia utilities that are light years away from what we have on any smartphone in the last ten years. The rest, many shortcomings. Because it does not have, it does not even have a touch screen. Going from a 6.7-inch iPhone to this little one is like going from a tiger to a doormat. Just what I wanted.
I asked my operator for a multiSIM for my SIM card and I inserted it into this phone. Calls and SMS reach both my Nokia and my iPhone simultaneously. When I pick up a call from one of them, the other is cut off.
This is not an experiment. It is something that I thought to do indefinitely, perhaps permanently, as a way to seriously disconnect, without the possibility of using WhatsApp, Twitter, email or visiting web pages, while still being reachable in case someone in my inner circle needs something.
Back in 2003, when we had nothing else to do with our phone than send SMS and listen to ringtones
I warned that circle made up of close friends and family: “Hey, if you write to me on WhatsApp or something like that and it’s for something a bit urgent, the same thing you catch me with the iPhone at home and I don’t see it until late, call me directly if Urge, or send me an SMS “. And that’s how I started to leave home, on certain occasions, without a smartphone. Especially when I wanted to be free of distractions, notifications, or a certain inability to focus on something without stopping to check networks from time to time.
A few years ago, when I heard about this need to disconnect, about its convenience, I just didn’t understand it. I did not understand what added value they could give me fifteen minutes of waiting in silence looking at the horizon instead of informing me about a topic or communicating with someone. I already understood: our brain is not prepared to receive stimuli constantly through a screen, and with these habits we are destroying our ability to concentrate. We think we are multitasking, but we are not.
Those moments of pause, of knowing that no one other than the person in front of me is going to distract me, have been balsamic. The saying goes that “the graves are full of sumptuous dinners”, and few feasts have we had in recent years like bingeing on Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and company. Black holes for our attention and our productivity.
There is no radical mindset change, there is no epiphany, there is no epic story that deserves a jaw-dropping YouTube video in the thumbnail. This has simply been a step through which I feel more comfortable and I am able to focus solely on the people who accompany me. The time to attend to those that connect me to the networks and messaging will come later.
They are calmer moments, with the mind free of distractions that make us lose focus. We are supposed to spend the week waiting for that free time to spend with our partner, friends, family, and then we are hostage to the notifications we receive, which do not even depend on us, to start avoiding involuntarily. My way of getting them back was with a 3310 in my pocket. Nothing to look at, nothing to consult, nothing to receive, nothing to be distracted by.
And the battery lasts two weeks.