Will Stults spent too much time on his iPhone, doom-scrolling the site formerly known as Twitter and tweeting angrily at Elon Musk as if the billionaire would actually notice. Stults’s partner, Daisy Krigbaum, was addicted to Pinterest and YouTube, bingeing videos on her iPhone before going to sleep. Two years ago, they both tried Apple’s Screen Time restriction tool and found it too easy to disable, so the pair decided to trade out their iPhones for more low-tech devices. They’d heard about so-called dumbphones, which lacked the kinds of bells and whistles—a high-resolution screen, an app store, a video camera—that made smartphones so addictive. But they found the process of acquiring one hard to navigate. “The information on it was kind of disparate and hard to get to. A lot of people who know the most about dumbphones spend the least time online,” Krigbaum said. A certain irony presented itself: figuring out a way to be less online required aggressive online digging.

The growing dumbphone fervor may be motivated, in part, by the discourse around child safety online. Parents are increasingly confronted with evidence that sites like Instagram and TikTok intentionally try to hook their children. Using those sites can increase teens’ anxiety and lower their self-esteem, according to some studies, and smartphones make it so that kids are logged on constantly. Why should this situation be any healthier for adults? After almost two decades with iPhones, the public seems to be experiencing a collective ennui with digital life. So many hours of each day are lived through our portable, glowing screens, but the Internet isn’t even fun anymore. We lack the self-control to wean ourselves off, so we crave devices that actively prevent us from getting sucked into them. That means opting out of the prevailing technology and into what Cal Newport, a contributing writer for The New Yorker, has called a more considered “digital minimalism.”

While dumbphones aren't a cure-all for unhealthy technology habits, as a dumbphone user, I can relate to the frustrations that come from the lack of device availability and support. Even when new devices hit the market, they tend to be targeted towards non-US markets.

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