Last December, The New York Times published a story on the Luddite Club, a group of Wes Anderson-ian Brooklyn teens who have traded in their smartphones for flip phones. The club is full of cool, alt-culture and aptly named teens: founder Logan Lane and members Clementine Karlin-Pustilnik, Odille Zexter-Kaiser, Jameson Butler and more.
Named after Ned Ludd, a legendary 18th century weaver who supposedly smashed two looms in a fit of rage, the Luddite Club meets every week to disconnect outside. Not all members have ditched their smartphones — only the committed have taken such lengths — but all members disconnect from their smartphones when they meet each week.
They paint. They read. They journal. They discuss French composer Maurice Ravel and say things like, “We’ve all got this theory that we’re not just meant to be confined to buildings and work,” per The New York Times.
But they also say things like, “Being in this club reminds me we’re all living on a floating rock and that it’s all going to be OK.” Which is kind of sweet if you think about it.
The group is both earnest and a bit pretentious, but endearingly committed to their movement and are almost reminiscent of the now-ridiculed early 2010s hipsters. Luddite Club founder Lane has a typewriter in her room, the symbol of peak hipster-dom, as well as a cassette player.
To fully appreciate the Luddite Club is to both strongly admire them and kindly giggle at them. One can’t help but feel that there is a slight sense of superiority amongst their members — while criticizing her mother’s Twitter fixation, Lane said, “But I guess I also like it, because I get to feel a little superior to them.”
But they also have a point: we are becoming concerningly attached to our phones. In 2022, Pew Research Center released a report on teens and technology usage. Sixty-seven percent of teens said they use TikTok, while 97% of them say they use the internet everyday and 46% say they use the internet “almost constantly.” Ninety-five percent of teens have a smartphone, which is a significant increase from 73% in 2014-2015.
Do smart phones impact mental health?
A recent study published by APA PsycNet found that limited smartphone use has its benefits.
For this study, German researches monitored two groups: one group that stopped using smartphones altogether and a second group that reduced smartphone use by one hour everyday. Both groups were monitored over one week.
While both groups saw an increase in life satisfaction and physical activity, the group that only limited phone use by one hour saw stronger and more sustainable effects over four months. Additionally, this group saw a decrease in the number of cigarettes they smoked everyday.
The study concluded that “conscious and controlled changes of daily time spent on smartphone use can contribute to subjective well-being (less depressive and anxiety symptoms, less problematic use tendencies, more life satisfaction) and to a healthier lifestyle (more physical activity, less smoking behavior) in the longer term.”
Flip phones are making a comeback
If you’re a parent of a teen, don’t despair. Flip phones are coming back.
According to CNN, teens are becoming more drawn to the “vintage” accessory. Prominent Gen Z celebrities, such as singer Camila Cabello, are making the switch. “I’m team flip phone revolution,” Cabello tweeted in January.
can we bring back flip phones so we have to press a button multiple times to get the desired letter. maybe people would say less— EM (@uhhmmily) February 1, 2023
The flip phone market is projected to have a major increase over the next two years. According to the International Data Corporation, “foldable phone shipments will reach 27.6 million units in 2025 with a compound annual growth rate of 69.9% from 2020 to 2025.”
Additionally, the flip phone market will have a market value of $29 billion in 2025.
According to CNBC, “dumb phone” sales are on the rise among Gen Z. “I think you can see it with certain Gen Z populations — they’re tired of the screens,” said dumb phone influencer Jose Briones.
“They don’t know what is going on with mental health and they’re trying to make cutbacks,” Briones continued.
HMD Global, the maker of Nokia phones, sold “tens of thousands” of flip phones every month in 2022, per CNBC. On the other hand, their “global feature sales were down.”
How to live without a smartphone
We’ve come to rely on smartphones because they can do literally everything: communicate with friends, listen to music, take pictures, hold books and much, much more.
But as someone who navigated both middle school and high school with a pink, bedazzled flip phone, I have a few ideas on how to live without a smartphone. And while I don’t want to idealize the early 2000s — it was a weird time — I will be harkening back to my middle school and high school days.
1. Pass notes
When I was in high school, passing notes was an art. It required a lot of careful consideration: which color ink to choose? What stickers to use? Which fun font to draw in? (Bubble letters? Blocks? How can one decide?!).
Some of my notes were pages and pages of confessionals and updates to my friends. Others were just chain notes, passed in class and built upon each other.
Passing notes was a genuine delight — they’ve become a physical, historical transcript of the throes of puberty. I have an old shoebox packed with the notes I received in high school at my parent’s house and I sometimes reread them — while cringing — when I go home.
2. Save DM-ing for after school
There is a specific memory from middle school that is permanently tattooed in my brain: rushing home, logging on to AIM and waiting for my friends to message me. Unfortunately, AIM is a thing of the past (RIP), but some could argue that Instagram DMs are this generation’s AIM.
When I was 13, there was nothing more thrilling than the anticipation of waiting for my crush (you know who you are) to log on to AIM. The amount of embarrassing confessions I made on AIM are numerous, but the memories are precious.
3. Burn CDs
Another art-form of the early 2000s: burning CDs. Long before the days of digital music players, my room was littered with CDs. Some were bought and well-loved (Hilary Duff’s 2003 album “Metamorphosis” was a huge favorite), but others were burned by either myself or my friends.
The same logic applied to other music vehicles, like cassette tapes or playlists: crafting the right CD took time and consideration. Whether you were burning a CD for a roadtrip or the love of your life, never did a task seem more serious. You had something to say and you wanted to make sure it was heard.
The art of CD burning always reminds me of this quote from the film “High Fidelity”: “The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem.”
4. Bring back digital cameras
There was a time when using digital cameras, especially Polaroids, was scoffed at. But the cultivation involved in taking and printing pictures cannot be mocked. Or maybe it can! Who am I to say?
All I know is that when I was in middle school, I took my digital camera very seriously. While my friends and I did an embarrassing amount of photoshoots, we also took a lot of in-the-moment candid shots that lived on my walls for years.
Nowadays, all my pictures get lost on my iPhone. And they’re at least 75% pictures of my dog. But the act of taking a picture with an actual camera feels special — and making space for those pictures on your walls feels even more precious.