How I Stopped Using A Smartphone and Started Using The Phone

Sometimes the most instant message is your voice


Telephone by Oleg on FreePik, which I pay for

When I got rid of my smartphone, I started losing touch with people. No WhatsApp, no “what’s up?”. And I actually like being social, I just don’t like social networks. So I tried something else. I picked up the phone.

Now that we have smartphones it seems almost antiquated using the phone-phone. The dialer is probably one of our least used apps. Instead we send a message, or schedule a video call, or — more often than not — just lurk about and don’t get in touch at all.

For me, however, the phone is the only app on this shitbox Nokia that works. Even finding a contact is hard. So I think about it, flail through my T9 keyboard, and call someone up. Their usual reaction is surprise.

People ask “what’s up?” like something’s wrong. Calls are usually when you need something, or from jail. “Nothing,” I’d say. “I just called to talk.” After people get over the vestigial weirdness of the situation it’s fine, they know how to talk. And you know what? It’s really nice.

On a phone call you’re actually there, in sync. Messages are asynchronous, they’re a line from a dead letter, a thought from a mind that’s not there. You write something and you wait, or you get a message in the middle of something else, when you’ve forgotten. With a phone call it’s an immediate voice, playing a transient drum-beat on your inner ear. You have to be in rhythm, you have to be in sync. You have to be there.

If I call someone the conversation doesn’t stop in the middle for hours, and it never unceremoniously disappears. We say hello and good-bye, we respond to every remark immediately, and if we’re busy we cut the line. After years of making everything a message or a scheduled meeting, it’s refreshing to just interrupt someone completely; to get all of their attention, and give them mine.

The Phone

When I was a teenager, this was all we did. I had a phone jack and a school directory and we’d call each other to chat. That was chat. I used to sit under my desk, thumb through the directory and imagine who I could and couldn’t call (I had a very keen sense of the hierarchy of popularity, I would…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at