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Gen Z's digital detox through dumb phones

More and more digital natives reject online life

Gen Z's digital detox through dumb phones More and more digital natives reject online life

A certain press narrative tends to describe young people as constantly immersed in the digital world, unable to distinguish daylight from the reflection of the screen, a battalion of smartphone hikikomori. But the relationship between digital natives and technology is far more contradictory and complex than one might expect from a youth raised amidst the glitz of Instagram and the fast pace of Tiktok. A large part of Gen Z actually turns against the 'connected' life and chooses an offline everyday life with a vintage flavor. This is the case of the Luddite Club collective, a group of young people in New York City who reject all forms of technology and prefer to spend their afternoons playing cards and skateboarding in Central Park. But it is also the case, much milder but equally significant, of that segment of youth who are increasingly turning to 'dumb phones'. A Wall Street Journal report highlights the growing need of young people born between 1997 and 2012 to put aside the experience of 'endless notifications', and it is in this context that the market for so-called 'dumb phones' is falling on fertile ground.

@alexpurdymusic 1 month update using @thelightphone2 #dumbphones #dumbphonecalls #socialdilemmaexperiment #socialmediadetoxchallenge #lightphone #lightphone2 #lightphonecase #socialmediadetoxdone #offlinetime original sound - Alex Purdy

But what is a 'dumb phone'? They are smartphones with some basic features, cheap models that can only make calls, receive messages and use some basic modern features like accessing 4G, playing some video games like Snake, and so on. Of course, it's not really about returning to the mobile phones of the 2000s, but rather about reducing distractions while staying connected to the 'basic services' of the web era when needed. In general, many Gen Z kids (and others) use a dumbphone as a secondary device: when they feel they need some kind of 'digital detox', they leave the iPhone or smartphone at home and switch to a dumb phone. This can be the case, for example, when they go out to socialize, but also in any other situation where they do not want to be distracted by classic apps.

@sonicradio Gen Z ditching their iphone for flip phones. We stan a motorola razr #flipphone #iphone #sonicradio original sound - SONiC

In the US, sales of flip phones increased in 2022 for companies like HMD Global while dumb phone sales are expected to reach 2.8 million in 2023. The maker of Nokia phones continues to sell millions of mobile devices used in the early 2000s, including so-called 'feature phones', traditional flip phones that come with additional features such as GPS or hotspots. Companies like Punkt and Light are responding to this trend by selling devices aimed at those who want to spend less time on social media, and a number of influencers promoting these phones can be found on YouTube. «Part of Gen Z is fed up with screens - Jose Briones told CNBC, an influencer who specializes in Y2K phones and hosts the subreddit "r/dumbphones" - they know how it affects mental health and they are trying to cut back. »If the 2000s technology revival between headphones and digicams was born out of an aesthetic interest of new generations in a time close enough to be comprehended and far enough away to be historicized, the dumbphone trend underlines a purely functional need of a generation tired of the selfish, narcissistic and competitive culture that social media has made part of everyday life.