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The flip phone experiment 

I came to Notre Dame wanting it all. I wanted incredible memories. I wanted success. I wanted to get holy, get fit and get involved. I wanted to waste no time. I knew that this experience, like high school, would fly by at an incredible pace. Like a fleeting shadow. A blink of an eye, a New York minute. Here, then gone. 

However, semester after semester, I found myself throwing those precious minutes down the drain. The time sucker? A cracked iPhone 8 in a dilapidated red phone wallet. Time and time again, I’d find that screen time app reminding me of the many hours I lost each week. 

I tried to get that number down. I really did. I set screen time restrictions, I ditched social media and I even put my phone in black and white to make it less desirable. But no matter how hard I tried, the phone would win. Even if I had a good week with phone use, a bad week would come, and I would find myself robbed of that coveted time. 

As a second semester sophomore, with everyone talking about jobs and plans and future, I heard my Notre Dame timer clicking louder than ever before. And at the dawn of 2022, I found myself having an intrusive, insane thought: What if I could eliminate the temptation altogether? What if I could simply guarantee hundreds of hours of more fun at the best place in the world? 

What if. I hate what-ifs. So I drove to Target, and I bought a flip phone. 

I originally told myself that I would try it for one month. One month, and then if I decide that I hate it, I can switch back. This was not a long term project. It was an experiment. 

Despite my doubts, here I am, nine months later, and you couldn’t force me to switch back. I love my flip phone. It’s brought me the results that I’ve always craved. My fears about the switch were illegitimate, and all of my hopes came true. 

The first immediate thing that I noticed was that I was swimming in free time. At first it was weird. I would get back to my dorm, sit on my futon, realize I had nothing to do on my phone, and then … Keep sitting on my futon. I would sit there as the minutes passed, staring at the ceiling, waiting for something to entertain me. 

Nothing ever did, so I got busy. 

I learned a few songs on the guitar. I read 14 non-school books. I spent more time laughing with my dorm friends. I studied more, I prayed more. I ate longer meals with my friends. I started walking the dorm dog, Rocco. I picked up poetry. I called my family more, I hit the gym more and I slept more. I had the time to write this essay.

I quickly found that my focus was improved without my phone’s constant interruptions. I was completely, entirely in the moment. I would find myself locking in for entire lectures. I worked faster than ever, and I was more able to attentively listen to my friends. 

I did everything that I love more and better. The flip phone increased both the quality and quantity of my favorite things about life. And throughout it all, there was not a battle that needed to take place. There was no tempting smartphone left to fight. 

The best thing about my flip phone is that it is not enjoyable to use. It’s complicated, it’s slow, it’s gross-looking. But that’s exactly why I love it. It’s there if I need it, but when I don’t, I’m as far away from that thing as humanly possible. My flip phone united my long and short term desires — I’m not constantly denying myself anymore. 

But the most groundbreaking realization did not hit me when I was happy. It hit me on a day when I was feeling particularly sad and anxious. 

I walked out of North Dining Hall on that miserable day with my head down. Normally I would have turned left, dragged myself to my room in Dillon and dove headfirst into the bottomless pit that was my smartphone. But I knew in this moment that the only thing waiting for me in that room was silence. 

Instead, I turned right. 

I headed to Stanford Hall, where some of my friends were hanging out. I walked through those doors reluctantly, but I walked through them nonetheless. I needed to cope somehow, and without my smartphone, I was left only with healthy options. I told them what was going on and they lifted me up. 

I was forced to lean on people rather than a screen. And now more than ever, I think that this vulnerability is beyond important for relationships. It has turned my friends into brothers. Rather than the emptiness I would feel after a couple hours on Instagram, I left that conversation feeling loved. I was left with the deeper desire of my heart satisfied. 

All in all, that’s what I’ve found to be the greatest superpower of the flip phone: It offers me no artificial solutions. It forces me to take the next step needed to satisfy my longings. 

When I am feeling social, I don’t send funny stuff in the group chat anymore. I set a time up to hang out and laugh with my friends. When I like a girl, I don’t text her about my bad country playlists. I set up a lunch to get to know her. When I’m tired, I don’t scroll mindlessly. I take a nap. When I long to connect with friends or family, I don’t like their Instagram post. I call them and ask them how they’re doing.

My iPhone was my Tylenol. It would numb the pain, but it would never remove it. It was like trying to pull weeds by cutting them at the tips. It made me feel like I was making progress, but it never solved the issue. My flip phone removes that artificial option, and it truly has changed my life. I’ve been forced to look my issues in the eye and find genuine solutions. 

One of the hardest things about making the switch was saying no to a good thing. My iPhone was great: It was convenient, it was entertaining and it was capable of many things. But this experiment has again taught me the importance of tradeoffs in life. 

Life with an iPhone was good. 

But this one is better. 

I’ve attached a couple relevant links below for those interested in trying the experiment. Please feel free to reach out: jhaskell@nd.edu. I am happy to talk flip phones, technology moderation or anything else! 

Two options I’d recommend: 

1) A solid flip phone for most carriers. I have had this one before. 

2) Wisephone. Very simple touch-screen phone with only a camera, maps, text, calls and a clock. My brother has this one and would recommend it. 

Some phone plans allow an immediate sim card switch, some don’t.

Joshua Haskell

junior

Oct. 26

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First-year FAQ: A first-year survival guide

Your first year at Notre Dame is hard. It can be exciting, life-changing, terrifying, revelatory, unforgettable and probably every other adjective you can think to ascribe to it, but at the end of the day, it is still hard. When you first arrive on campus, it’s easy to feel somewhat adrift. You’re separated from your parents, you’re thrust into a dorm beyond your choosing and you’re paired with a total stranger as a roommate. Then you’re hit with assignments, anxieties, due dates, social pressures and a flurry of new experiences, some of which you’ll love and some of which you won’t. And what’s more, you begin this journey under the golden dome of one of the last bastions of western Catholicism: The University of Notre Dame (aka Catholic Disneyland). It’s a lot. Every upperclassmen who’s been through it knows it’s a lot. And every first-year going through it alongside you knows it’s a lot. Still, that doesn’t make your first year any less stressful. So, in an attempt to quell some of the expected terror of one’s first year in college, I have decided to compile a set of frequently asked questions, and to answer each of them to the best of my ability––even if that ability is decidedly on the low side.

I’ve heard Notre Dame is extremely rigorous academically, and I’m a little intimidated. What can I do to prepare?

This question is frighteningly common, and I think it’s important to dispel the prevailing idea that academics at Notre Dame are overwhelmingly strenuous, or that first-years may not be ready for the challenge. Prepared students should find the workload manageable, and, more importantly, if you have been admitted here, you deserve to be here. There is no reason to panic if you suddenly receive an assignment or challenge you haven’t encountered before. You can do this! But, in case you do find yourself struggling, here are some tips from my experience to help you along the way:

First, get a planner to help organize your day. Start by marking off each assignment’s due date, each essay’s due date, the dates of each exam, the dates of each lab, the times for office hours, every group project meeting, writing center meeting, advisor meeting, internship interview, Rector meeting, social events, dorm party, call to your parents, intervention for your friend’s roommate, stress-induced headache, unexpected panic attack, OCS meeting and OCS sentencing and then organize your free time in case you find it prudent to occasionally take a stroll around the lakes or scream interminably into your pillow. 

Second, do not underestimate the positive impact of a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, due to academic pressures, mounting workloads and the urge to excite one’s social calendar, sleep can be difficult to come by for many first-year students. Fortunately, there is a handy technique that we Fighting Irish have been using for decades. While doctors generally suggest you sleep eight hours a night (56 hours a week), it is not always practical to spread your sleeping hours evenly across each night of the seven-day cycle. As such, one tried and true method suggests that a weary college student sleeps a little under four hours each night, before subjecting themselves to a party-induced coma for 29 hours from Saturday night at 3 am to Monday morning at 8 a.m. Ta Da! 56 hours a week, and you wake feeling fresh as a daisy!

Third, take a deep breath now and again. Weirdly enough, it really will be okay. 

I’m not particularly religious. Will I feel as welcomed here as my Catholic peers?

While Notre Dame’s reputation has been infallibly built on its academic excellence, moral rectitude and epic football program, some eagle-eyed students might also notice that Notre Dame is actually a Catholic institution. In fact, Our Lady’s campus is home to 57 different chapels, as well as being littered with countless statues of notable Catholic figures such as Mary, Jesus and Lou Holtz. Still, can’t we all feel accepted at this institution regardless of our personal beliefs?

Mostly! Ultimately, Notre Dame is a respectful, open-minded community for learning. The Catholic roots serve as a guide in all of the University’s actions, but they are not what define the school––rather, it is we, the student body, who define Notre Dame. That said, if you have an aversion to Catholic imagery, you’ve made a catastrophic error in school selection. 

How important are the dorms really? Does it matter which one I’m placed in?

I suppose this varies by person, but personally, my dorm will one day be the centerpiece of my obituary. 

I’m nervous about getting a random roommate. What do I do if we don’t get along? 

Ah, the randomized roommates. Notre Dame’s most confusing source of pride. While the process is inherently a gamble, many Domers past and present report finding lifelong friends in their first year roommates, often rooming together again in the years that follow. But then, of course, there are the odd mismatched roommates here and there. No doubt, in your first year at Notre Dame, you’ll hear a number of completely baffling roommate horror stories: the kid who can’t sleep unless Motley Crue is playing at the unhinged volume of a space launch, the kid whose rejection of private property extends to your personal belongings or the kid whose once youthful rebellion has accidentally made them permanently nocturnal. Unfortunately, you can only hope you’re not forced to room with your soon-to-be worst enemy.

Still, if you and your roommate aren’t best buds, that’s fine too. You don’t need a lifelong bond to cohabitate effectively, and if worse comes to worst, you only really need to be in your dorm room when you’re sleeping. There are so many friends to be found at Notre Dame. Don’t be discouraged if the kid on the other bunk doesn’t happen to be one of them. 

What are Parietals?

A cataclysmic bummer.

Is there anything else I should know before I start my freshman year?

Don’t freak out! College can be stressful, but it can also be the absolute time of your life. Put yourself out there, and get involved in as many things as possible. You only get four years here (actually I’m on track for five and a half, but that’s beside the point). Make the best of it, and don’t forget to have fun! I think I speak for all upperclassmen when I say we are so excited to welcome you to Notre Dame!

Daniel Lucke

junior

Aug. 29