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This week, after the University of Georgia’s victory over the University of Alabama to secure the college football national championship, all attention turned to UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett IV. Sure, the improbable story of how he went from a walk-on player at his dream school to the championship game’s offensive MVP is about as inspiring as a sports story gets. But what really caught my attention was something completely unexpected: Bennett uses a flip phone. Yes, a flip phone.
According to Atlanta-based journalist Maria Martin, Bennett says using a flip phone helps him stay more present. Could that explain his exceptional on-field performance?
By the way, Stetson Bennett has had the flip phone since summer. Yes this is his only phone. No, it wasn’t BECAUSE of anything other than he thought he was on his phone too much. Seriously. He wanted to be more present so this summer got a flip phone. #UGA
— Maria Martin (@Ria_Martin) January 5, 2022
Stetson isn’t the only person choosing to tune down the digital noise. More and more people are reconsidering their relationships with social media and the digital space as a whole—and our smartphones are an easy entry point to a world full of distractions. You’ve probably seen social media movements such as the Analog Challenge, which encourages people to say goodbye to Twitter (or your social platform of choice) for a month. There’s even an entire thread on Reddit (with over 20,000 members) devoted to the subject of digital minimalism—a term coined by Georgetown University professor Cal Newport. He calls it “a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities…then happily miss out on everything else.” He even wrote a book on the subject.
See also: What Is Mindfulness, Really?
Are we addicted to smartphones?
Newport is not saying all technology is bad. He’s just pointing out the need to be more aware of how we’re using it.
As a society, we’re on our phones constantly. According to a 2021 survey conducted by Asurion, the average American checks their phone 96 times a day. That’s a 20 percent increase from two years ago. We’re becoming more and more attached to our phones, not less.
For some, it has spiraled out of control. One recent study found that 39 percent of young adults surveyed said they had an addiction to their smartphones. It not only affected their ability to stay present and mindful, but the study found a correlation between phone addiction and poor sleep. Another study found that excessive phone use increased personal conflict.
Practicing mindfulness—attempting to stay in the present moment—can be difficult with endless streams of information and constant notifications. You know the feeling. You’re talking to a friend, and a notification pops up. A few minutes later, you’re scrolling through Instagram during a face-to-face conversation. Oops.
Quality sleep, a chance to be more present, getting along better with people…. Why aren’t more of us following Bennett’s lead and ditching the smartphone? I get it—it’s hard. You’ve got to admire his commitment to tune into to the real world. And, hey, after seeing his success this week, I would definitely consider limiting my screen time (at least a little bit). A TikTok and Instagram-free evening? It actually sounds (kind of) pleasant.
See also: Can You Be Too Mindful?