My undivided attention

I know this may sound preachy, but – speaking as someone who recently made the switch, and for whom aesthetics are important – my opinion is simple: ditch your smartphone, use a dumb one, and ideally the MP01. It might feel a tad scary, takes a day or so to get used to, but it is so worth it!

One thing I really appreciate about the city I live in is the fact that cyclists outnumber cars by the thousands. It is the primary means of transport here. You leave the house in the morning, hop on your bike and start pedalling towards your destination. Which usually will be reached unscathed a short while later.  If you are not hit by a smartphone along the way, that is. Not once but twice have I had unpleasant encounters with smartphones attached to selfie sticks that have entered the airspace of the bike lane with a fervour usually reserved for tennis rackets at a Wimbledon tournament. The last resort then is to duck and hope for the best.

The other issue I have with smartphones is that they are designed to make me co‑dependent. I do not appreciate that. I vividly remember waking up one morning and instead of sticking my head out the window to see what the weather is like I just tap, tap, tap, checked a weather app. I cycled to work fully clad in rain gear, arriving fifteen minutes later. The rain never did arrive that day – none at all.

The above probably best illustrates my frustration with smartphones in a nutshell. Are they a handy tool? Of course, they are. The always-there camera, the on-board navigation, the digitized plane tickets, the banking apps. All very practical. It is more the fact that people seem to become oblivious to other people as soon as their phones screen springs to life. There are numerous cliché-laden examples to be listed here, but I am certain that we all know them. Losing touch with the world around us used to be a sign of impending catastrophe (for oneself at least). Now it seems to be socially accepted. But maybe, just maybe, this should not be the case.

Cue for my switch to a less intelligent device. Not so much motived by a wish to refrain from attaching it to a stick and bashing people with it (that’s never been my thing), but more in order to be present and give my undivided attention to my surroundings and the people therein.

Why the Punkt. MP01, one might ask? This is an easy one: I am a very visual person. Having being trained as a product designer also means living with the curse of heightened aesthetic alertness. Which is subjective, of course, but no less real.

The MP01 is simply a beautifully-designed object that does exactly what it should. It also looks exceptionally good on my desk. The aesthetic in me: very pleased. And my friends with a design background univocally seem to agree.

The rest think I am carrying a calculator with me at all times.

I had sneakily planned my smartphone-free time for a period when I had less work lined up, meaning there would be fewer people expecting on-the-go updates and images.

When the Punkt. MP01 arrived much earlier than I had anticipated, I threw all cautious planning overboard and swiftly extracted my SIM card from its previous vessel and straight into the MP01. So I went cold-turkey: saved my most important contacts on the new phone, and went dumb.

The actual detoxing was less glamorous than what I had imagined. The first time I pulled out a book instead of a smartphone in one of those there-is-time-to-be-filled moments I felt like a hero. I held my breath for the lights to go out, a spotlight to be pointed my way and a gleaming medal being pinned to my chest. Same for the first call I received on my handsome MP01. It took me some seconds to link the sound I heard to my new device, but I managed. Of course to the caller it makes no difference which device’s microphone you blurt your answers through. Again, no medal was pinned.

Where I really noticed the switch was with text messages. Friends who used to unapologetically send whole droves of emojis my way at 10:42 pm suddenly found it weird if I responded by calling them at this hour of the day. Probably because I interrupted their typing.

The effort a T9-composed text message takes also meant that I spoke to various members of my family via the phone more often, and ironically gave long-distance smartphone troubleshooting advice to my grandmother.

Vexing things, these smartphones.

Something I came to understand during my month-long smartphone abstinence was that one of my main motivators, the omnipresence of smartphones in my daily life, had not really faltered with me jumping ship. Friends are still placing theirs (screen down at least) next to their plates on the dinner table. People on the bus still don’t acknowledge (how could they, they don’t even notice) my superiority as a carrier (and reader) of books.

But I noticed that a lot of the digital clutter that comes hand in hand with a smart device has vanished from my life. It also proved that I am not as co-dependant as I had feared. I now alternate between phones smart and dumb, caring much less with every sign my smartphone shows of its looming obsoleteness.

Because I have now discovered that I can do without it.

Which is something I appreciate a great deal.

Stefan Auberg
Amsterdam, The Netherlands


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