Flip Phones Are Gen Z's Favorite New Nightlife Accessory
The retro devices limit sloppy Instagrams and drunken texts to exes.
In December, University of Illinois student Sammy Palazzolo went viral on TikTok for using an old-school flip phone when she goes out. “[My friends and I] realized that every single problem that we have on a night out — everything that leads to us crying, everything that leads to us having a bad hookup, everything that leads to us having a bad time — stems from our [smartphones],” she explained in the video. Now, she uses an AT&T Cingular Flex flip phone, which she bought at Walmart for $39.99, and has a $30 phone plan that lasts 70 days. She encourages others to try it. “Make the switch, f*ck your phone, and get a flip.”
Her videos have inspired other young adults to buy themselves flip phones due in part to the accessory's stylish aesthetic. Palazzolo decorated hers with homemade stickers, including one that references her angel number and a life motto: “444 the story.” It turns out it’s easier to have memorable adventures if you’re not sucked into a screen.
Increasingly, Gen Z is embracing the flip phone, which reflects both the Y2K fashion resurgence and widespread interest in reevaluating relationships to technology. On TikTok, #bringbackflipphones has garnered more than 27 million views and #flipphone has had nearly 600 million. Returning to simpler devices is seductive; more than half of Gen Z spends upward of four hours per day on social media. Wouldn’t a break be nice?
“Using a flip phone when I go out definitely keeps me more in the moment because I’ll notice that I’ll have little urges in my brain just to check social media,” Palazzolo, who’s 18, tells Bustle. “When I don’t have access to [a smartphone], it keeps me living my actual life.”
She wasn’t alone in her decision: She decided to go retro with two college friends, Maggie Connell and Reagan Boeder, who both opted for Classic Schok flip phones. The perks, Connell tells Bustle, include avoiding “drunk-texting someone you shouldn’t, posting stupid things, or being stuck on Snapchat [and] Instagram when we should be engaging with people in real life.” Flip phones curb those temptations.
Boeder finds her Schok flip, which is decorated with stickers and rhinestones, is a social ice-breaker. “I definitely meet more people when I have my flip phone. It makes it so easy to start up random conversations and be silly,” she says. The friends only have each other’s numbers and emergency contacts logged into their phones. “And I love the grainy, bad-quality look, [which] makes for some fun posts on Instagram,” Boeder says. (Palazzolo recently posted a TikTok tutorial on how to transfer flip-phone photos, which often resemble the trendy aesthetic of disposable cameras, to an iPhone through an SD card reader. Cue the next-day, blurry photo dump.)
Some celebrities feel similarly. Dove Cameron stated in a November interview that she is “going to delete twitter” since she recently got a flip phone. “I don’t mean it in a pretentious, douchey, like ‘off the grid’ [way], but I know it’s really bad for me,” said Cameron, referencing the toll social media can take. In January, Camila Cabello took to Twitter to endorse the old-school tech as well, saying, “I’m team flip phone revolution. Maybe I can write the theme song guys.”
Though social media can be a place for connection and community, its constant and addictive nature can take away from participating in real life. “Social media was consistently sucking hours and hours from my day,” says 23-year-old Osamah Qatanai, who works at a health startup. In November, he embarked on a 30-day “dopamine diet,” which included switching to an Alcatel SMARTFLIP he bought from AT&T. “My life began to feel so much more quiet. It forced me to interact and engage with my surroundings instead of occupying my mind with whatever distraction my phone could provide,” he tells Bustle.
The trend is catching on among millennials, too, many of whom used flip phones the first time around. As a birthday present to himself, 36-year-old Benham Jones, a public radio announcer and community organizer, recently bought a Sunbeam Wireless F1 Orchid. “I'd pick up the iPhone and my thumb would instinctively open Instagram and I couldn't remember why I was there at all,” says Jones, who used a Nokia during college. “I felt like I was losing swaths of time.” The switch to a flip phone has made Jones more deliberate about how he uses his time and “it's also helping set stronger boundaries with work,” he says.
In an over-stimulated world, flip phones are an IRL way to live in the moment, one flip at a time.