My Year of Flip: Day 5

My 25th college reunion kicks of today. Twenty-five years ago, I used a writing software program called Xywrite in my college's computer center. I didn't have email as I don't think we had  access to the internet. Maybe somebody in a super-secret underground lab at the school did.

I remember the first time I went online via AOL's dashboard. It was 1996. I remember looking at AOL's choices to click on: weather, email, games, news, money. And then the last tile of the bunch: the internet. I was completely overwhelmed. I remember thinking, "There is so much to look at on this AOL, that internet will have to, I'm a little scared of it. Portals unnerve me." 

I think I'm like my mom when it comes to the digital age. She was terrified of all things computer, dare I say electronic, except for the television. I remember she used to grab her Bic pen and say, "This is all the clicking I need to do." 

One Christmas, my brother tried to help her out with an Amazon gift card. She was so anxious when it came time to redeem it on the site, he might as well have dropped her in the Amazon. I sat by as she tried to navigate through all the choices to order a book. At the end of the 5-minute ordeal, she was drenched in sweat. "I think that's enough for me," she said.

She was old-fashioned. Born in 1929. Anyone born in the 20s was old-fashioned by my book. My kids will probably say the same thing. "She was born in the the previous century. Anyone born in the 70s is old-fashioned by definition." 

So my giving up my smartphone for however long I go without it seems to be an inherited trait. I do feel a smack of old-fashioned thinking when I consider why I handed it in back in April. "Why can't we just talk to one another like we used to?"  

However, I don't want to be afraid of the future and all that awaits us in a world communicated with and defined by ones and zeroes. That's why I see this time as a cleanse as opposed to a purge. I know smartphones, technology, computers, sub-dermal memory chips are absolutely how we do and will continue to live.

I just want to make sure I remember what I can do without those resources before I jump back into the digital fray.

My Year of Flip: Day 4

Being without a smartphone has brought me back to one of my favorite pastimes growing up: in-bathroom commercials. When I was a kid, I would pass the time on the pot doing commercials for whatever bathroom product was close at hand: hand soap, toothpaste, toilet bowl cleaner if I could reach under the sink. 

I'd always start out with the same opening, "Hi, I'm Kelsey Flynn and I want to talk to you about Crest Ultra-Whitening toothpaste." And then I'd read all the selling points from the front of the tube like they were my script. All while trying to maintain eye contact with the bath towel hanging on the door which was the camera.

Flash forward several years and bathroom time was time to check email, Facebook, or whatever whimsy I wanted to explore on my iPhone, say fainting goats or Amy Schumer. Once in a while, I'd do my other pastime if I was in a public restroom and decide if I could live in that restroom for the rest of my days should the apocalypse come while I was in there, nuclear, zombie, or otherwise. 

But really, once seated, it was all about the poking of the phone.

Then two days ago, I found myself in a public restroom at a funeral home. I was in day two of my re-commitment to my flip phone, so that meant that thing was in the car as I don't carry it around everywhere with me. Suddenly, I found myself reaching for the can of bathroom cleaner that was in the little basket of goodies on the back of the toilet. Not to actually use it, but to begin my pitch. "Hi, I'm Kelsey Flynn and I want to talk to you about Lysol's Disinfectant Spray. Its crisp linen scent removes odors and kills 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria. Keep it in your bathroom cabinet."

I have to admit, I do a damn good job pitching bathroom products and I had forgotten about that. And really what I mean there is I do a damn good job at entertaining myself and I had forgotten about that. I think that's at the heart of my trouble with my smartphone. I reached for it ALL. OF. THE. TIME. and that left no time for me to be by myself. There's lots of research out there about it. Jean Twenge does a bang-up job about how this phenomenon is affecting kids. As a species, we don't like to be by ourselves too much. And that tendency is exploited by these computers in our pockets so we no longer have to be alone with our thoughts or feelings. I don't have the self-discipline currently to control the smartphone relationship, thus the re-commitment to my flip phone. 

I'm off to remember what other things I find surprising about myself. 


My Year of Flip: Day 2

When I first started this digital cleanse in April, because remember, this is day two of me being recommitted to my flip phone. So when I first traded in the iPhone for the flip phone back in April, the first couple of days were rough. I'll be honest, the first couple of weeks were rough. And I thought I was anxious with an iPhone!

Everything about the flip phone made me anxious: the texting, the tiny screen, the texting, the degraded sound quality, the texting. I was sharing with a friend when picking up our kids after school and she said, "Well, anxiety is a very common result when breaking a habit." And she's a therapist so you know that's a bona fide statement.

Then the anxiety shifted into anger. "Why the !%@? is he texting me?! He knows I have a flip phone now! Everyone should just stop texting me and call me if they want something. Everyone!" Hair-triggered wasn't the word. It was more like, what's thinner than a hair? A filament? Can we be filament-triggered? Then, yes. I was filament-triggered. 

Because everything to do with the phone was not easy or efficient anymore, the result made me ANNNNGRY. But then I stopped looking for a flip phone to do what a smartphone does. I realized I just needed it for an occasional phone call or text. I remembered what this whole experiment was about: to reclaim my attention, and focus, and time from my smartphone. It was so completely in charge of me and my reactions, voluntary and involuntary, Pavlov's dog would have suggested I seek help-with his sweet little paw sign language, of course.

It's much better now. Two days into my re-commitment and I honestly can say the flip phone does not hold as much sway over me as my smartphone did. Have you seen the research about that  phenomenon? We are not as present if our smartphones are in view, even if their notifications and sound are turned off.

I remember having to put my phone in my bag at my former job or else I would find myself involuntarily reaching for it throughout the day. Suddenly, instead of whatever else I was supposed to be doing, I'd be looking at my phone. It's like they're always silently whispering our names. According to the research, that's the pull they have on us. Having your smartphone in view is the same as someone always calling to you. How deep into a meeting, a task, or an old-fashioned face-to-face conversation can we get into if we're constantly hearing, "[INSERT YOUR NAME HERE], pick me up. Touch me, [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE.] You may or may not have something to check and reply to on me, [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE.]"

I have to say, I don't miss that siren's song. 

My Year of Flip: Day 1

This is not technically day one of My Year of Flip. It's technically day 49. Until about two days ago, I was planning to turn in the LG A380 flip phone for a sensible smartphone. I was ready to return to the world of modern-day, practical communications-a world wherein I could write a text in a matter of seconds instead of toggling through "PQRS," "MNO," "TUV," "MNO," "DEF," "PQRS," "GHI," "MNO," "MNO," "DEF" to write "Sounds good." The thing doesn't even have T9! (Predictive texting technology flip phones have, or at least some flip phones have.)

But something shifted in me over the weekend. It wasn't quite nostalgia. There's nothing nostalgic about slo-mo texting or sound quality that requires me to re-locate to an underground bunker when someone calls. As one friend pointed out, getting a flip phone was basically a backward step. 

Yet, I noticed something over the weekend. That feeling I talked about in my first entry about making the switch, the panic I used to experience when I thought I didn't have my phone with me, I haven't had that feeling in a while. In a long while. My flip phone is usually on the kitchen sideboard table and it stays there for hours. Hours! (Kelsey, what's a sideboard table?) Good question: this.

So, I'm recommitting! I'm recommitting to life in the communications slow lane for a bit. I'll let other people, like my wife, reply to the various and many texts. I'll continue to check email from my laptop at certain times of the day instead of constantly such as stopped at a light with my kids in the backseat. (Kelsey! That's not safe!) I know but I see you do it, too. 

Also, checking social media obsessively as I did with my smartphone, that predilection has almost completely disappeared. It's so much quieter in my head as a result. Not being on Facebook has really calmed down the voices

How long will I recommit? The impulsive part of me wants to say a year. The non-impulsive part of me wants to put the phone down on the kitchen sideboard table, go outside, and see how I feel tomorrow. So I'm going to go outside now.

Oh, if you do text me, please just ask yes or no questions. If you need more answer than ye s or no, call. Which I think could be a good rule of thumb anyway.


Stops to help, goes on to win

 Elise Amendola/AP

Elise Amendola/AP

Just a quick post about yesterday's Boston Marathon women's winner, Desiree Linden. She's the first American winner since the mid-eighties. But that's not what caught my eye about this story. Early on in the race, she stopped to help out fellow elite runner, Shalene Flanagan

Flanagan stopped to use the port-a-potty and Linden held back to run with her and make sure she got back in with the leading pack. Linden told Flanagan she wasn't sure if she would even finish with the weather being so crappy, so if there was anything Flanagan needed, just let her know. At that point in the race, Linden thought she may not continue let alone win the race!

I thought that showed such sportsmanship and just basic kindness.

There are a number of beautiful lessons in there that I am definitely going to dwell on over the next few days:

  • We all benefit when we stop to help one another.
  • It's never over.
  • No, really, it's never over. When in doubt, just keep going.

Here's the parting shot: stopping to support Flanagan cost Linden 10 to 15 seconds, she won by over four minutes. 


It's been a couple weeks

It's been two weeks now since I traded in the smartphone for the flip. I still hate the thing. When I had the idea to transition to a flip phone, I thought I'd instantly feel so free, so unfettered from the obsession of checking anything...everything on my iPhone. But instead I feel frustrated. As I wrote earlier, a text takes an interminable amount of time to write. Even just "Kk" becomes a practice in patience as I wait to advance past the letter "J" on the keypad...twice!

And turns out the flip phone doesn't receive group texts. Just the replies to them. It's the texting version of the game Mastermind. Well, if Jaime replied back, "Okay, friend, sounds like a plan!," I think she's probably writing Helen back about Sunday. (If I'm right about the person but wrong about the date, I get one red and one white peg, of course.) My inbox is full of these clues, so I've taken to ignore them all.

One benefit of the flip is I only charge it every three or four days. Since I'm not on it constantly and it doesn't have any apps (unless you count the trial version of Uno), the battery lasts and lasts. Even after three or four days, it doesn't necessarily need a charge, I just feel like it should be charging for its own good, like an electric serving of peas.

The biggest benefit is being more intentional with my online-ness. Instead of compulsively checking email or Facebook or the news or more salmon recipes or my bank balance or the video of five people with superpowers caught on tape, I'm sitting down to do those things at specific times of the day. I feel more in control of this digital relationship with that kind of planning. I find I don't get lost in the internet rabbit hole as much with that kind of discipline.

But make no mistake. I miss having a smartphone. During this device fast, I have come to accept, appreciate, and pine after its convenience when it comes to communication, not to mention the sound quality of the calls. I miss the preternaturally close sound of the other person on the phone, freakish though it may be at time. (Are they in my ear?) 

So it's not a question of "if" but "when." When I get a smartphone again, I will have to do something simple in theory but difficult to pull off in practice: control myself. Just control myself.

Simple, right?


Traded in smart for flip

I did it. I traded in my smartphone for a flip phone. Yeah, I'm still not too sure about it either. It was kind of compulsive which is a hallmark of mine. Because of that compulsion, I may not make the switch back to a smartphone until at least a month of flip-phoning.

I've been thinking about making the switch for a while basically because I couldn't stop touching my iPhone. (I'm not alone. A recent study shows the average user touches their phone over 2,000 times a day.) If it was in my sight, I would pick it up, check email, look at my calendar, read the news, or just cradle it next to my cheek. 

I knew I had a problem and wanted to fix it because:

  1. I always felt panicked! Leaving the house, leaving a restaurant, just plain leaving always came with this sweaty-palmed moment of, "My phone! Where's my phone?!" It was usually accompanied with my wide-eyed look as I quickly patted every one of my pockets. 
  2. I couldn't put it down. (So why reason number one above? If I couldn't put it down, why was I always panicked I didn't have it? Because I think this device worms into our sense of place and purpose like nothing we've ever experienced.)
  3. I don't want my kids to think the phone is the be-all, end-all of one's existence and identity.

There are more reasons but let's start with three as that's such a nice number. It is the magic number after all. 

So I traded in my iPhone SomethingorOther (I think it was a 7) for my dad's LG A380. That's right, the A380. Oh yeah, it's got a camera.

It's been a week and here's what I miss: EVERYTHING. 

Texting: It takes an hour to write, "Okay. See you then." 

Email: It's kind of nice to have access to email to see if, oh, I don't know, plans change so you're not waiting around half-an-hour before calling the person to see if you're still having the meeting.

Contacts: All 1,042 that it turns out you collect over the lifetime of a smartphone relationship (because it is a relationship and I broke up with mine!) that your flip phone can only import a few hundred of.

The one positive is I do make more phone calls because phone calls are, in fact, the fastest way to get to a decision which most communication is trying to do. So that's good.

And I have broken my attachment to a phone because I freaking hate the thing so much I leave it all over the house. I don't obsessively carry it from one floor to another anymore. Man, I hate that thing. 

Next time, remind me to tell you about the fun of group texting on a flip phone. Oh, the confusion and ensuing hi-jinks! Like something right out of a Shakespearean comedy.



Why do you care if we're all attached to our screens, Kelsey?

Mister Rogers.jpg

Mister Rogers said, "You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are."

I read that online when looking up "Fred Rogers" while procrastinating one day at a former job. The phrase "...a deep sense of who you are" struck me because, at the time, I don't know if I actually had that. I don't know that I have it yet.

A general sense of who I am? Sure. I know I'm a mom. I know I'm a wife and I know I'm not a fan of putting small dogs in baby carriages.  

But a deep sense? I don't think so because I think that is achieved with a measure of quiet and thought. 

I know, what parent has either of those two? 

And when you throw in how often we tend to touch our various screens (over 2,000 times a day for the average user...what?!), there's even less quiet and time for thought. 

I think our perceived need to be constantly wired to email, social media, news, information, more news, more information, and all of the related FOMO is eroding our ability to have a "deep sense" of who we are. 

And I know this not from the many and varied articles and studies out but from my own inability to put down my goldarn phone!


I know! I'm writing this blog while using my personal hotspot on a satellite phone from a solar-powered gondola in Venice! 

But I truly believe it's awesome only when we're in charge of it and when we make  conscious decisions of how we're integrating it into our lives versus how I typically interact with it, e.g. responding like Pavlov's dog to every whistle, chime, and buzz. (Yes, I salivate and it is viscous and messy.)

This is the start of me documenting my own journey figuring out how to be best served by the sweet, sweet, glittery nectar of technology instead of caught up in its confounding stickiness.