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Opinion: Pondering betterment in the new year

'I wonder if smartphones really are the great evil they are made out to be.'
'Turns out the answer is, yes, you can buy a flip phone in 2024. '

As we meander through the first days of broken new year’s resolutions (mine was to stop spending three hours a night on social media AFTER bedtime), I found myself looking up whether I could purchase and use a flip phone in 2024.

Why? Well, because it’s harder to scroll through reels on a screen that’s two inches across. Simply put, if it’s not as easy to be drawn into distractions, maybe I’d be less inclined to do it.

Turns out the answer is, yes, you can buy a flip phone in 2024. After I inevitably break my current phone mountain biking, I will probably fork out some dollars to find out if the damned things still work given how far mobile network technology has come since I last owned one (probably 2011).

The possibility of replacing the sleek, easy smartphone that has become a part of my life in the same way it has everyone else’s got me thinking about what a new year’s resolution of the sort I’d committed myself to actually was—and frankly, I think they’re weird as hell.

It sounds masochistic saying it out loud, but really, a new year’s resolution is just a decision to make everything harder for the sake of it, in a quest to hold ourselves to higher standards (in newspeak, “to be better versions of ourselves”).

Really, they’re just a commitment to stop making everything so damn easy, because maybe if it wasn’t so convenient to be lazy or tempt ourselves with treats and distractions, we might somehow become better people.

On my resolution, I wonder if smartphones really are the great evil they are made out to be.

I was a slow adopter of smartphones when they first appeared on the scene. The first-generation iPhone came out in Australia in mid-2008, when I was in my final year of high school. At the time, I had a Sony Ericsson of some sort, which I thought was really cool because when people rang me it played the opening bars of “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller. Maybe because I was an 18-year-old dork (though 1940’s big band music still slaps).

I spent the train rides home through the suburbs of Melbourne reading a book or one of the various free newspapers that still existed, or staring out the window watching the world go by.

My point is the phone stayed in my pocket, because it was a tool people could use to contact me if they needed me. It wasn’t a toy I could use to drain my own bandwidth.

It did its job perfectly well, and the scenery going by the window did its job, too, filling my head with nothing but precious downtime.

And what was everyone else on the train doing? They were flipping through newspapers or leaning against windows sleeping. They weren’t all conversing and making friends with each other, but decompressing from a day at work by doing the same thing I was doing (staring out the window dreaming of being at home) or accumulating vignettes of knowledge from around the world by reading that day’s newspaper.

Pretty much the same thing we all do today, in other words, except instead of doing that in analogue now we can do it on a smartphone, which just made things a little easier to get a hold of.

But I’m planning to get rid of mine anyway, because I think I’d prefer to stare out the window and have thoughts that don’t go anywhere—because they don’t need to. Chances are, if I do get rid of the smartphone, I’ll end up reading a book for three hours after bedtime anyway.