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We forced a Gen Z kid to text with a flip phone for 24 hours

Remember T9 texting, where you had to press a number multiple times to get the letter you wanted? Or how you had to risk sending messages without the aid of auto-correct? Many of us do — but for Gen Z, the cutting-edge technology of 2008 is akin to a crank-start motor or a TV without a remote control. So what does it look like for one Gen Z’er to go without their smartphone for an entire day? Riley Winn found out when he gave his niece Danae, a freshman in college, a flip phone to use over the course of a day. So how did she do?

“I know now why people back in the day would call all the time,” Danae laughs. “It’s easier than texting! And that’s why people invented [abbreviations like] ‘LOL’: because it’s short!”

The flip phone has other frustration outside of texting, whether it was the lack of connection to her AirPods or the convoluted menu organization. ”It’s just frustrating, because I’m trying to send out messages, and it’s not doing what I want it to do,” she laments.

And how about that texting functionality? In 2021, texting/messaging is the primary form of communication, but Danae started to grapple with the sheer tediousness of trying to send even the most basic messages: “I can’t type that! That’s too many words!” she says, hitting each button multiple times to select just one letter.

But at least the phone has a camera. Sort of. “It’s not quite the quality I’m used to,” Danae says. Although, “when I went shopping, I had to take pictures of outfits and send it to my friends, so I did that,” she says.

When asked if there was anything about the flip phone experience that surprised her in a good way, or that she did like, she responded with an immediate and resounding, “Honestly? No…” she laughs. “I hate it!”

Clearly, phones have changed dramatically since those mid-2000s flip phones. But communication has also changed. Even texting has taken a back seat to apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and, of course, TikTok, none of which are available on the old-fangled flip. “It was really different than I’m used to, and it was kind of frustrating because the buttons are so annoying,” she says. “It took too long to type a text.” And while the old flip technically does have that camera, the quality is less than great. “There’s a camera on the [flip] phone, but I miss my camera and my editing apps,” she notes over a blurry picture of her in her dining room.

Unsurprisingly, Danae didn’t want to continue using the flip phone after the 24 hours was up (even though we offered!). “You should have been filming me while I was at the mall answering phone calls in public because that was a little bit embarrassing!” But then she vacillates a bit. “I realized that I shouldn’t be embarrassed. It’s just a phone! People are obsessed with how they look and having the fanciest new phone. But I have a flippy! And it’s amazing!” she says, perhaps trying to talk herself into being a flip fan. “Everyone should be jealous!”

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