Yes You Should Do a Smartphone Cleanse. No You’ll Never Get Free of Your Smartphone.

Raymond Trabulsy
5 min readJun 17, 2021
My Nuu Flip and Nokia 6300, chilling on the dining room table. Sorry about the cat hair.

I was late to the smartphone game.

I used a knockoff Blackberry slider until 2013 or so, and had no intention of switching out, since my girlfriend (now wife) was also still using an LG slider phone. But, when her slider finally died, she decided it was time for both of us to get into smartphones. The timing worked out; my knockoff Blackberry, which carried me through two very dirty jobs at a pizzeria and at a factory, was starting to breakdown.

A little over a decade later, I still use an Android smartphone. Rarely do I need to boot up a PC for anything; my life is, quite literally, ingrained in my phone. From photos to passwords, I can access my entire digital and non-digital footprint through my little Nokia 2.2.

That kind of convenience comes with some caveats, though. A smartphone is a gilded cage: one that we willingly throw ourselves into. Any cage, not matter how pretty, is still a cage. No animal, no matter how distracted, will eventually succumb to the life draining power of captivity. Whether its doom scrolling through the news, binge watching useless videos, or feeding the darker emotions within your core as you spitefully view everyone’s lives through the filter of social media, the smartphone cage will get you. It gets me every time.

How to Tell

I usually feel it in my chest first. It is a dark, heavy feeling, not quite depression, but close. The best word I’ve heard to define it is “Languishing.” It’s like being stuck in a hole. The rest of the world is there, but I only see it through a tight frame. I feel removed. Hidden. I know that I can climb out, but I can’t find the will to.

Outwardly, I become distracted and inattentive. When checking my screen time, I can spend four hours or more using my phone when I’m languishing.

It is right about here that I know I need to cleanse myself of my smartphone.

How to Do It

The first thing you need is feature phone of some kind that works with your service. While searching for a feature phone online can be a bit daunting, most companies will offer some kind of flip phone or feature phone from their website.

They normally fall within 50 USD to 60USD, or about as much as a low end budget smartphone. While you are going to get a lot less in the way of features — obvious feature phones don’t have touchscreens, have limited email and internet support — the quality of the phone build is considerably better.

I bought two feature phones during my cleanses. The first one was the Nuu FL4 flip, and the second was the Nokia 6300 4G. Both feel more premium than any budget smartphone I have ever bought.

Switching over may be more or less difficult, depending on your carrier. I’ve been on Mint Mobile for almost two years. Since I bought all my phones off their website, all I needed to do was pull my smartphone’s SIM card, and put it in the feature phone. Mint uses GSM networks. If you’re on a GSM network, too, the process should be pretty easy, but you should check with your carrier first before burning money on a phone.

Using apps and testing on this tiny screen is about as fun as you imagine it to be.

Just like feature phones of previous decades, there are some apps built in. The big selling point of both of these phones was having some social media apps and an email client without the smartphone price tag. It isn’t a perfect solution, but — at least for me — it gets the job done. Using social media on a 1.5 inch screen is about as enjoyable as you imagine, so it is actually easier to go without. Ease was the whole reasons we started with social media to begin with, right? Take that away, and what do you have? Hard to view pictures, and a lot of ads.

What Are The Results?

The weight lifts. I feel more attentive. When I text, I really have to want it. Best of all, if I want to use Facebook or some other site, I have to be deliberate, and go find my computer to do so. Overall, I feel better than before.

Then Why Can’t You Get Away from a Smartphone?

Because the world expects you to be connected from your pocket. My job requires me to have a smartphone to test our app, and double check out work.

When I was searching for work, I needed to be the first to respond to an email, if I wanted the job. Companies don’t expect your email to be at home. They expect it to be with you at all times.

From a social perspective, connecting with people in person, having a smartphone is a kind of status symbol. Feature phones make you look out of touch, or intentionally quirky. If that’s your thing, then by all means, but not everyone wants to be view like that.

Essentially, a smartphone today is a nice button up. A feature phone is an open Hawaiian shirt with pink flamingos. Both shirts do their jobs, and have an audience. But not everyone wants a Hawaiian shirt, just as not everyone wants a plain button up.

In Conclusion

I do my smartphone cleanse about once every other week. Before I sign off from work, I shut down my Nokia 2.2, and swap the SIM into either my 6300 or FL4. I don’t get back into my smartphone until I sign in for work on the following Monday, and it does me a lot of good.

While not everyone will find it as fulfilling as me, and — to be honest — not everyone can afford it. Buying multiple phones can be pricey, especially if you get stuck with a flagship on your phone plan.

But, if you can, I think you should.

Connecting is great, but so is a little solitude from time to time. That is what a smartphone cleanse is: Solitude.