Photo taken during pub karaoke, on the titular flip-phoneNatasha Macbeth with permission for Varsity

Why on earth would you go back to a flip-phone? Ironically, because my smartphone told me to. After watching one too many reels proselytising the joys of only taking a flip-phone with you on nights out, I figured I might as well do what the algorithm gods had wished and give it a go. My rules were fairly simple. My smartphone and all smartphone apps (Spotify, Instagram, Pinterest etc) were out; anything vaguely retro was in. There were of course a few exceptions. I was not about to involve my boss in my digital detox.

Everyone else forced to cooperate with my digital purge was mostly bemused but obliging. Even my grandmother, after repeatedly asking me what exactly the point of this was, kindly offered me her old flip-phone. Did it look like the one Alicia Silverstone uses in clueless? No. It was most definitely designed with the elderly in mind: the ringtone was hideously loud and the keypad jarringly massive. Not exactly chic. It did, however, have its own charm, especially once I’d repurposed the face gems my little sister intended for Reading Festival for its bedazzlement.

My very first adventure as a digital nomad was not exactly the most wild and free: I went for dinner with my family. Living life on the edge, I know. Unable to scroll through Instagram or Pinterest on the way there, I called my friend Sami to reassure myself I hadn’t totally fallen off the face of the earth. I think my poor family felt slightly snubbed. In my defence, and as I tried to explain to my parents, no-one talks to the people they’re actually with on the bus. They lamented the ruin of our generation; I lamented why I ever decided to pitch this article.

“If I was not to be a tortured intellectual, I might as well be a 2000s icon”

If the first evening was one of despair, I soon began to feel more optimistic about the project. Clearly, I am not quite poetic or philosophical enough to hack simply staring out into space and contemplating my material existence, which is how I’d imagine Wordsworth or Rousseau taking their bus journeys (ignoring the fact you’d likely have to drag them onto said bus kicking and screaming). But, I did get used to filling the empty moments of my day without access to Spotify or socials. If I was not to be a tortured intellectual, I might as well be a 2000s icon. I donned my cowboy boots, started wearing dresses over jeans, and spent my commutes around London reading the ‘Twilight’ trilogy. You know that one photo of Ashley Tisdale? I was her; she was me.

I also spent Days 2 and 3 gleefully rediscovering my childhood CD-player. Unable to stream music on my phone, I spent the first 24-hours very much unsure how I was supposed to motivate myself to pre-read without Kate Bush lyrically screeching in the background. Imagine a week without ‘Wuthering Heights’. Awful, I know. I then discovered an old Girls Aloud CD: why not replace one Girlboss with five? Go listen to ‘The Promise’ and thank me later.

Despite the beseechment of the algorithm gods, I must admit I did not quite manage to take my flip-phone clubbing. It did, however, make it to a pub karaoke night filled with 50-year-old male alcoholics. Same thing, no? Evenings are when an obvious downside of the flip-phone becomes apparent. I do not like the dark, and I like it even less when I don’t have real access to messages or Uber.

“I do not intend to act as a prophet of the clean-girl, wellness detox”

On my daytime adventures, however, getting lost was much more joyful. I would write down directions on pieces of paper before I left, obnoxiously folding and unfolding them for dramatic effect on the tube. These instructions were not exactly the most thorough. But, then again, no character from a 2000s movie would make it to the Hamiltons Gallery without a half-an-hour detour anyway. The effort of being #notlikeothergirls, the gay best friend or the token minority character would obviously stop them on their way. Getting lost? I deemed it all very Y2K.

If the novelty was at first enough to appease my itch to scroll, I will admit that my enthusiasm waned significantly after Day 4. I was delighted at the week’s end. Phones are fun, and I had very much missed stalking all my vague acquaintances. I do not intend to act as a prophet of the clean-girl, wellness detox. Instagram reels will tell you the flip-phone makes you feel more in touch with the world. Disclaimer: it’s difficult to be in touch with anything when it takes ten minutes to type out a three-word text. There’s also only so much 2000s cosplaying a girl can take. I’ve come to realise I’m very fond of being gloriously, deliriously Gen Z. Long live the Instagram doom scroll.


Mountain View

Philanthropy extremity: live, laugh and give blood

But, if the mindless scrolling ever makes you feel slightly out of control, why not dig out an old flip-phone? I plan to keep a hold of mine. That way, at those moments I inevitably find myself slightly overwhelmed by the rush of online activity, I might put my smartphone away for a few days, or even just a few hours. The flip-phone brought many of its own stresses, but there’s also some calm to be had in shrinking your world. Concentrating on my nearest and dearest for the week was far more a joy than an ordeal; pitching this article was, in fact, not the most terrible idea after all.