A Smartphoneless Existence

Navigating the modern world with a brick phone throws up some existential quandaries

Domingo Cullen
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readAug 9, 2019


Photos courtesy of the author.

The last email I ever read on a phone was from Papa John’s Pizza Delivery in July 2011.

It was the middle of a long hot summer and as I gazed into the sad space between me and my loneliness, a beep from my Blackberry Bold 9700 pierced the haze of the afternoon and warned me of a two-for-one deal I shouldn’t miss. Soon after, I lost the phone and downgraded to a Nokia 301. That last call for pepperoni would prove to be the end of my relationship with the internet in my pocket.

In the intervening eight years since Papa John’s came knocking, I’ve jumped from rubbish phone to rubbish phone, and in the same time span technology has become so advanced that it is indistinguishable from magic. My Nokia 301 can do very little other than take calls and get texts, and the day I tried to download WhatsApp, it froze and threatened to ignite.

My phones are the phones immortalized by The Matrix, which gave ’90s teenagers their first taste of freedom from behind bedroom doors. They are the burners used by dealers to keep the police off their tails, and the reason Snake became the best mobile game of all time. These are the phones I’ve carried in my pocket for the last decade.

And I ask myself why.

And it’s confusing, because I can’t give a straight answer.

Why, when modern life is increasingly run on smartphones did I refuse to get one. Going against the grain had something to do with it. I suppose following trends did the opposite of what I desired, which was to be noticed. But there was one thing that bugged me, the lack of thought that went into the idea that the most recent thing must be the best. As if everyone was running blindly after what they stood to gain, and paying no attention to what they might lose.

For me, there are dangers in things being too good.

When I was a child, MTV was too good. I would sit for hours flicking through music channels like a maniac until my parents…