Gen Z is the first generation to have grown up with digital communication systems deployed. As a result, for this generation, digital tools are not novelties, but everyday accessories. But now some members of this generation are suddenly turning around and turning to flip phones, far from the richness and complexity of smartphones.
With each new generation of smartphones, Apple or Samsung offer an arsenal of ever more advanced functions, all accompanied by larger and brighter screens. But it seems some of Gen Z wants fewer, if any, smartphones in order to protect their sanity.
Their solution: a simple flip phone that can literally cut through digital content overload.
“I wanted to reduce the time spent in front of the screen”
You read correctly. The generation that usually turns to doomscrolling in search of solace is voluntarily returning to the 2000s to take shelter from a runaway digital consumer economy.
“I think I wanted to find a feeling of being more connected with my friends and family. And then I also just wanted to cut down on screen time,” Fjolla Arifi, 23, a Buzzfeed reporter, tells ABC News after strictly using a flip phone for a week.
On average, the generational cohort born in 1996 and later, dubbed “Gen Z”, watches 7.2 hours of video on their screen per day. With content always available, many Gen Zers find themselves scrolling endlessly on TikTok and Instagram.
Revisiting a time when technology was not a devouring object
Smartphones and social media have become ubiquitous and algorithms are conditioning young people to stay glued to their phones. Personalized news feeds and doomscrolling can harm mental health, not to mention waste a lot of time.
“We realize that all the problems we have, everything that makes us cry, everything that gives us a bad time comes from our smartphone,” says TikTok user @skzzolno to justify why she and her friends only go out with their flip phones.
For Gen Zers, turning to flip phones isn’t just a way to follow the Y2K aesthetic, but perhaps also a way to revisit a time when technology wasn’t not a devouring object, but a simple accessory. “It takes all the bad things out of college, and brings in all the good things about a phone, which is connecting with people and taking pictures and videos,” he said. Gen Z @skkzonlo on TikTok.
Screenshot by Christina Darby/ZDNET/Tik Tok.
“My day was more boring because I was secreting less dopamine”
In addition, companies like Samsung have revived the vintage design of flip phones. Especially with the Galaxy Z Flip series. A smartphone that is suitable for content creators and the general public. Admittedly, the use of the Flip’s “flex mode” to use the two screens as a mini-tripod or as a camcorder is innovative.
But owning a flip phone, for many people, has nothing to do with the logic of innovation. The appeal may not even lie in the nostalgia of the clamshell opening and closing (yes, you might remember Matrix). This attraction is simply due to the simplicity of the device. Especially for certain tasks, such as sending a message with a very basic keyboard (pressing three keys to type a letter, etc.).
“I felt like my day was more boring, because I was secreting less dopamine. But the peace and quiet far outweighed it. I no longer felt the need to constantly flood my brain with stimulation,” another Gen Z, Osamah Quatanani, told ABC News after also going on the flip phone for 30 days.
The luxury of taking a photo with a disposable camera
Still, flip phones are not the only devices from old technology to partially replace the all-powerful smartphone.
As a Gen Zer, I have to admit that the luxury of taking a photo with a disposable camera at a party, without the influx of notifications, instant gratification, or pressure to post, is more convenient. Ultimately, it’s a liberating experience and I imagine using a flip phone is even more so.
Although I don’t have a traditional flip phone, I have the Samsung Galaxy 2 Flip 4, and I can honestly say that flipping the lid of the phone brings me a whole new level of satisfaction. I like the idea that this physical movement accompanies and facilitates my decision, when the time has come for me to get rid of the distractions of my smartphone.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. Image: Jason Hiner/ZDNET.
Note that this trend of returning to one device per function is also noticeable with Sony’s new Walkman.
Moreover, this trend remains weak. Although some members of Generation Z are embracing the flip phone, smartphones still largely dominate the market. In the first quarter of 2022 alone, Apple sold 56 million iPhones worldwide. So don’t expect your Apple or Samsung ecosystem to face degrowth issues anytime soon. It’s up to you rather to opt for the disconnection or the limitation of the screens.