Americans have intimate relationships with their cellphones. A recent report found 89% of Americans say they check their phones within the first 10 minutes of waking up, and 60% sleep with their phone at night.
And during the day, nearly one-third of American adults reported being online "almost constantly" in 2021, up from 21% in 2015.
"I remember being attached to [my phone] and when I was texting my girlfriend, I remember the screen just kind of came alive," said Jose Briones, an advocate of digital minimalism. "I get this rush of, 'Wow, like, somebody cares about me.' And I put a lot of my value not on the person necessarily or the notification that I got, but also on the phone, because the phone is the medium through which I receive this amazing, loving text."
But its not just phones holding our gaze. Watches, doorbells, even many refrigerators are now "smart."
Partly in response to how ubiquitous this technology has become in the fabric of modern life, Joe Hollier co-founded Light, a company that sells minimalist cellphones.
"There's no social media, no infinite feed of any kind, clickbait news, and there's no email," Hollier told Under the Radar. "So, really all of the things the phone does — calling, texting, setting an alarm — are just really utilitarian based. And the idea is that you're not pulling out the phone. So, we like to say it's a phone designed to be used as little as possible, because it's about the time and the space that it gives you to not be staring at a screen."
Hollier is one of a number of Americans attempting to separate themselves from the seemingly inescapable reach of technology. These digital minimalists are willing to change their habits to go back to a simpler, less technology-centered lifestyle.
"We can decide how much technology we embrace, how we embrace it, and how we really find the value in our life," said Andrew Maynard, professor of advanced technology transitions at Arizona State University. "My camera is a fully manual camera and I get joy and pleasure out of that. ... That's a choice I make. And I think a lot of people forget that they can make these decisions for themselves, how much or how little technology they have in their lives. Of course, the difficulty is when we've got tech companies trying to push it down our throats, sometimes it's difficult to pull back from that."
Joe Hollier, co-founder of Light, a company that sells minimalist cellphones
Jose Briones, digital minimalism YouTuber and advocate, moderator of the subreddit, “r/dumbphones”
Andrew Maynard, professor of advanced technology transitions at Arizona State University