Students without phones navigate socially


Sevan Minassian-Godner, a Berkeley High School senior, has used a flip phone for nearly a year. After going to a school retreat in February 2022, he realized how glued people had been to their phones. 

“There were people at tables eating or sitting at tables who were just texting each other,” Minassian-Godner said. “It was really hard for me to break that barrier. When I came home, my phone was already falling apart, I had to get a new one, and I decided to go with a flip phone to see if I liked it, and I really enjoyed it.”

At BHS, most students have a smartphone with them at all times, unless made to put one in a “phone jail” or caddy. Some are just not allowed by family to have a phone, or don’t have one due to other circumstances. Some students actively choose to not use or bring a smartphone to school. 

“I was more disconnected,” Minassian-Godner said. “If I was playing football, I wasn’t worried about who was texting me or what was happening on Instagram because I also quit social media. I was just like, in the moment. That was really nice.” 

Speaking to the disadvantages of not having a smartphone, he felt disconnected and had less frequent communication with his friends. Instead, he defaulted to using emails or calls to contact people which made it harder for him to maintain his friendships.

Junior Holden Elias was without a working phone for his first two years of high school. “I didn’t really see a point in it,” Elias said. “Throughout the pandemic, I didn’t really need it to keep in touch with people, because of distance learning.” 

During his junior year, he experienced the hurdles to not having a smartphone at school. While he did have a phone, it could only be used for texting and calling, and had a short battery life. Elias would have a harder time communicating with people because his phone would die at unpredictable moments. 

“If my friends were going off campus for lunch, I might miss out because my phone wouldn’t be working,” he said.

  Other students use a smartphone, but are resistant to participating in social media. BHS junior Oliver Nickelsen is one of such students. “I don’t use social media because I don’t want to have more reasons to use my phone,” Nickelsen said.

The only disadvantage they listed came with an advantage: not using social media can make it more difficult to communicate with friends, but for Nickelsen, it forces them to be more inquisitive about their friends’ lives.

“It makes me less connected to people, but also it makes me have to actually talk to people to understand what’s happening in their life,” Nickelsen said.