How Not To Have An iPhone

It’s still possible, and, yes, it’s worth it

Paul Greenberg
3 min readFeb 6, 2023

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Photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash

What can you do when you don’t want an iPhone in your life but don’t want to be dubbed a curmudgeonly old luddite? How can you continue to make the case that attention, real attention to real life, is a precious commodity? How do you live in this world where sometimes even your front door requires a phone for entry and your family constantly complains about the burden that your persisting with phone-less-ness puts upon them?

This is something I’ve struggled with since I somewhat famously decided to quit my iPhone. After realizing that during the 12 years of my son’s life, 11 had been taken up with staring into its greedy little screen I had said enough is enough and switched to a flip phone. I had a little detour last year when my cell carrier dropped 3G (and thus my old flip), but then I dropped the replacement iPhone and shattered it. Thereafter I picked up a new 5G flip and resumed where I’d left off.

Treat the important humans in your life as humans, not as more of your “content.”

During that brief re-acquaintance with the iPhone I realized that it’s as addictive as ever. That even a sworn anti-phone person can be sucked right back in. But I also realized that there are some cases where an iPhone is an effective and useful tool.

The key then is to make it stay that way: as a tool that you use the way you would use a hammer. The problems start when you allow the phone to make you into a tool — a conduit for someone else’s marketing plan. Keeping you as you and the iPhone as a tool is the primary distinction you have to make if you’re going to be both functional and right-mindedly attentive in the modern world.

So, how do you do that?

First off, do get that flip phone. Make that your primary means of contact. if texting is your thing, learn to text on it again, the old fashioned way, even if it’s slow and sloppy. The point is that texting should be a logistical means of communication, not an emotional one. When you do that you’ll call them more, see them more. You’ll treat the important humans in your life as humans, not as more of your “content.”

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org