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Is it Time to Ditch the iPhone for a Flip Phone?

flip phone benefits

We are getting into the health coaching business at Gene Food in the next few months, so I am becoming a certified health coach in order to design the program.

As part of my training, I meet virtually once a week with my class for 3 hours every Tuesday morning. Part of the class is lecture, but we also break into groups and practice health coaching techniques on our fellow students.

As students, we are asked to discuss a personal health challenge in the role of client so classmates can practice coaching skills and strategies. After a few weeks in the program, I am amazed at how often “responsible use of technology” comes up as a health goal, both from my fellow students, as well as from myself.

iPhone addiction

Ditching my iPhone addiction is something I’ve written about in the past, but hearing a classmate talk about how she believes her phone is causing anxiety, that technology is preventing her from living her best life, or even focusing on her family, really hits home.

In this morning’s session, a fellow student spoke about her goal of establishing what she called a better a mind body connection by “controlling her technology, rather than her technology controlling her.” She talked about neglecting a doctor prescribed health regimen for her back, but finding plenty of time to waste on the internet. Her goal was to reshape priorities so her idle phone use was capped at 15 minutes a day.

iPhone is a barrier to mindfulness

In my session, I identified my iPhone as the biggest barrier to a consistent mindfulness practice, which is a primary goal of mine. I regularly feel distracted lately, and my iPhone is the number one culprit. When it’s off, even for a morning, I see noticeable results in my ability top focus. Now, I get that “mindfulness” has become trendy, with internet famous types selling it daily on podcasts, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value. When I dial it in, mindfulness allows me to significantly reduce stress and become a better version of myself. Focusing on what I am doing while I am doing it is a top priority for me this year, but unfortunately, my lifestyle goals are sometimes at odds with my business goals.

Much of my business is online, and while I do draw inspiration from commentators like Gary Vaynurckck who romanticize the phone as the best tool for sales and business development that has ever existed, I also recognize that the iPhone is a black hole. I see that Instagram is an important tool to leverage for ecommerce marketing, but I also think it’s a landfill of low quality content and unchecked ego. The internet business development conversations speak to what’s useful about our phones, and much less about what is dangerous about our phones. Smart phones help all sorts of marketers sell more stuff, but they leave in their wake a distracted, flakey society. I know for a fact that the majority of the time I am on my phone is not useful, it’s wasted in a state of zombie half consciousness. Once I’ve had my first iPhone scroll session of the day, which usually happens sometime in the early morning, I’m hooked until bedtime. By the time evening rolls around, my attention span is in shambles. I Google a topic, choose an article, and skim for maybe 20 seconds.

Rinse and repeat.

The cycle of distraction bleeds over into “recreation time.”

iPhone disrupts family time

My sister and I have noticed a trend in family vacations recently, which we call the “anti-board game mindset.” There isn’t a lot of actual relaxation in our relaxation time. Not that we’d necessarily want to play a board game, but even if we did, who has time? No one in our clan is near calm enough for a board game. We are too distracted looking at garbage on our phones. We spend time together in a state of low level anxiety, peeking around the corner for the next news alert, or text message. Our attention is on technology, not on each other. In essence, my “smart phone” robs me of time with the people most important to me.

Lately, I scroll on my phone while I talk to my Mom, sometimes as we discuss serious things. I scroll on business calls. I scroll at red lights.

If I am always “connected,” why do I feel more disconnected than ever?

By fostering an illusion of connectivity, our phones separate us from our families, friends, and interests.

Which is why I am going to say it.

Dude, you need a flip phone.

We all do.

I am turning mine back on today.

Is a flip phone the solution?

Until the Light Phone comes out in the next few years, the play is to buy a flip phone, and use it exclusively for calls. The iPhone is still useful as a type of tablet for when we have access to WiFi, which is almost all the time, so this isn’t a huge sacrifice.

I’ve done this before with positive results. The switch to a flip phone, even if I am still on my iPhone when I have WiFi access, changes my relationship with technology.

When it’s not connected to data, I don’t check the iPhone near as much, especially in the morning. The compulsive obsession with my phone seems to fade.

Most important, turning off data makes it impossible for me to check my iPhone when I am driving, which makes me a better, safer, driver. One of the scariest things about our phone addiction is how often people look at their iPhone behind the wheel. The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. 1

Think about that.

The flip phone can save lives.

With a flip phone, there is nothing to check other than a basic text, or an incoming call. Unless your car has a WiFi connection, the car becomes a scroll free environment.

Maybe you have good control over your phone and use it responsibly. You are to be congratulated. However, if you’re like me and your smart phone is making you distracted, causing you stress, and risking your life, try a flip phone, even if only for a month.

You’ll feel better.

John O'Connor

John O'Connor is the founder of Gene Food, host of the Gene Food Podcast and a health coach trained at Duke's Integrative Medicine Program. Read his full bio here.

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