Every few months, I unwittingly downgrade my iPhone. It’s because of a Keychain issue with my MacBook Air that I haven’t fixed. The details of the problem aren’t that interesting (if you want to dive into the tedium, read this enthralling chapter on Keychain Access issues from Apple Support), but basically, my laptop erases all of my logins across the web (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Gmail) and elsewhere in my Apple accounts.
Next, I end up resetting my passwords, which I then forget because I’m making new ones so often. Eventually, this labyrinthine system of passwords and logins exhausts me until I decide it’s not worth having these apps on my phone anymore. I also delete apps when storage space becomes an issue. When photo- and podcast-hoarding build up, I delete social apps, especially data-sucking Snapchat. Meanwhile, I continue to use work-arounds on my laptop, hiding the Keychain prompts in the corner of my screen and hoping I’ll be able to access most if not all of my files. Overall, I am effectively using something like half a computer and 70 percent of a smartphone.
I’ve chosen this route of suboptimal Apple product usage because I am tired of trying to fix it all, and I am not alone. I’ve chosen it out of laziness. There is, however, a mounting number of people who leave their technology issues unresolved because they believe the path to fixing their screen addictions is to make the experience subpar. Nellie Bowles recently wrote about “going grayscale,” diving into her settings to zap the color from her iPhone, leaving everything monotone.
“I’ve been gray for a couple days, and it’s remarkable how well it has eased my twitchy phone checking, suggesting that one way to break phone attachment may be to, essentially, make my phone a little worse,” Bowles writes for The New York Times. “We’re simple animals, excited by bright colors, it turns out.” It’s a settings choice that those worried about phone addictions have advocated for a little while now. For Android users, there are apps that will automatically switch your phone to grayscale when the battery gets low; iPhones, however, force users to manually dig into the settings (which isn’t easy) to go gray.
Switching to a monochrome look isn’t the only way people are tricking their brains into cutting back. There are also the slew of technology-oriented mindfulness apps, like Moment and Space, that allow you to monitor phone use and, if you’re able to bring yourself to, decrease it. But this trend doesn’t end at life hacks and free apps: There is a real market for prying our phones from our desperate claws.
Yondr was profiled in Wired recently (and in The New York Times in 2016). The company works with event venues to offer a system that places audience members’ phones in special cases to render them unusable until you take them outside of the designated space and tap them against special hubs. It’s targeting places like courtrooms, classrooms, and concerts. Despite some legal questions about cellphone access (which are addressed in the Wired story), Yondr is becoming an increasingly popular option for venues trying to limit phone use.
The concept behind Yondr is similar to that behind digital detox camps like Lodged Out, Unplugged Weekend, Camp Grounded, and Unplugged in the Alps. The prices at these places range wildly, but the general idea is they offer experiences devoid of mobile phones. (One of the cheapest Lodged Out packages is $600; one of the most expensive Unplugged in the Alps packages is nearly $4,000.) Beyond these very specific adult summer camps, there are entire travel sites that specialize in finding hotels that offer digital detox packages or block Wi-Fi. There is a market for providing a world that is less attached to technology or with downgraded access to it, which must have tech companies and developers scratching their heads. Last week for The New York Times, Farhad Manjoo wrote something of a call to action for companies to make less-addicting phones. The creators of our prized technology want to deliver the best product, but we’re beginning to feel the cost.
There’s a cheaper and faster way to untether from your phone or laptop. Just say no to spotty in-flight Wi-Fi and ditch your iPhone for a Nokia to reset the brain ticks you’ve developed. Or, if you’d like to take a page from my book, just reset your password so often that you’d rather delete Facebook than try to recover access to it. There are plenty of free options to downgrade your technological life, but prepare for a market that realizes there’s increasing value here. If you’re going to live life less connected, at least you can do it in the newest and best way possible.