Escaping the echo chamber

Dear readers, I come to you once more as your loyal adventurer, trying new things so that you don’t have to. This time, I spent the last seven days with my iPhone 15 in a drawer (until I realized I can’t use Duo authentication without it, which they really should change) and my primary method of communication a bedazzled flip phone. Honestly, I don’t have a great reason for why I did this. In one of my classes, we discussed what it would take for us to give up our smartphones for a week, and one of my friends and I realized that it would actually take very little and we love a challenge, so why not give it a shot?

So, as someone who spent the last week in about 2008 in terms of technology, here’s what I’ve learned.


When the Sidekick (the first slide phone with a full QWERTY keyboard) was developed in early 2000, that was proof of God’s existence. For my experiment, I picked up a $20 flip Tracfone from Walmart. First mistake. Do you have any idea how hard it is to text on one of those things? You can’t type S, one of the most common letters in the English language, without pressing the 7 key FOUR TIMES FOR EVERY S. I will say that my middle-school typing agility has slowly come back over the course of this week, but it’s been a long road. I’m still incredibly slow to type anything, and for someone who mostly texts, that was rough.

Me, taking ten minutes to type a single message. Photo by Madi Jensen.

General Malice

I hate people way less now. I didn’t have access to any of my social medias during this week except for Tumblr, which I can access on my laptop, and it was glorious. You would not believe how peaceful the world is when you have no idea what the people you’re jealous of are doing unless they are literally with you or letting you know on personally. Snapchat maps is the work of Satan. We should never have been given the ability to see what our peers are doing – like congregating at a party that everyone but you was invited to. Ignorance is bliss, and I cannot recommend getting off social media enough. I had no idea what other people were doing in other places all week, and it made me so much more present in my own life.

The Usual

The obvious improvements were visited upon my life due to this change, which I won’t bore you with. I think we all know that you become less anxious and more productive if you just take away the ability to doom-scroll. I shan’t beat that particular horse any more than our parents already have.


I found that I know my way around Fargo better than I thought. I would hope this to be the case since I’ve lived here since I was born, but it was nice to see that I can still navigate this town without the help of Google Maps. I did still have to consult the internet a bit, but always before I left the house and not while driving (which I never do, obviously, that’s bad and illegal).

It Takes Time

Everything I did this week was so much more intentional than before. Everything takes more effort without a smartphone, and it made me think a lot harder about what I was doing. If I wanted to go somewhere new, I needed to look it up on my computer before I left the house. I don’t have an MP3 player (sadly), so if I wanted to listen to my own music in the car, I needed to bring actual CDs with me. I became very well acquainted with my already-loyal old friends “Everything in Transit” by Jack’s Mannequin and “Shallow Bed” by Dry the River. I also got to pull out some old mixes from my middle school days and, well, let’s just say that I maybe should’ve been forced to listen to something other than Switchfoot, like, ever. 

Coming back to Earth

I started seeing the world a lot more clearly. Being on my phone all the time means being on social medias where I interact with people I already agree with over and over, rehashing the same things all the time. It’s so important to interact with people and communities you haven’t already decided that you like. Spending too much time online will eventually warp your perception of reality so much that you will be incapable of distinguishing between opinions and facts, disagreements and real social issues.

Last semester, I sewed a dress for one of my classes that looked like meat, with a lace ribcage and a little plush heart that velcroed on and off. It was weird and awesome, and I almost didn’t make it because my first thought was that it would be blasè and overdone. Girl, what? I only thought that because I spent so much time on a part of the internet where that kind of fashion is par for the course. To me and ten other people on Tumblr, that’s old hat. Lady Gaga obviously did the meat dress best, and everyone has made some sort of gory little garment that looks like blood and guts and represents the vulnerability of sharing your art, right? As it turns out, no! Wrong! That is not something that everyone thinks or is familiar with, but I was so disconnected from reality, living in this little internet world in my head, that I genuinely forgot how society works. Getting off your phone will get you out of your insular little internet communities – which are not necessarily a bad thing, but you can’t live there. I love my weird fashion girlies on Tumblr and Pinterest, but the internet isn’t a real place. I live in Fargo, North Dakota, and it’s important that I spend some time actually here. We only have so long before all our consciousnesses are uploaded to the Metaverse and the physical world becomes a distant dream. We mustn’t let go of reality just yet. 

I highly recommend trading your smartphone in for at least a week if you need a little more spice in your life. I had a lot of fun, and it forced me to become much more grounded than I had been before, which was good for both me and everyone around me. I felt wholly present in my own life a lot more often than usual, which was awesome. Feeling like a person is great, and I’d forgotten a little bit what that was like. Also, I love flipping that thing open and shut as hard as I can. I’m probably going to be too vigorous one of these days and crack the screen, but my God there is no joy in this world like ending a phone call with a huff and then just SLAMMING your phone shut. I also figured out how to whip it open really fast kind of like a switchblade, and it’s another supreme glory to announce that you’re going to text someone and then flick your phone open slyly like you’re in an avant-garde production of West Side Story set in 2002.

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