Who doesn’t feel stressed enough by the news on their smartphone. Dutch Prime Minister Rutte doesn’t go along with it and is doing surprisingly well. Many young Dutch people do the same – and they are not alone.

Life without a smartphone – impossible? no way. Even a head of government can master his demanding job well without constantly relying on the all-rounders when it comes to communication. In any case, it hasn’t hurt Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte so far; he has already been re-elected several times. What’s more, the fact that the head of the liberal-conservative VVD (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie) primarily uses a Nokia 301 is well received by his compatriots. You can use it to make phone calls and send SMS messages, texting is done with old-fashioned number keys – the opposite of a smartphone. The so-called dumbphone is even said to have a positive effect on its image. It helps shape the impression of a completely normal, not aloof man.

With his digital minimalism, the prime minister is even setting a trend among young Dutch people. The 55-year-old recently made an impression on students at his old university in Leiden by saying that he only uses a smartphone to follow the news. Otherwise he communicates with his Nokia, reported Rutte. “A big advantage: I can’t join an app group. I see people around me who are stressed because they have to keep up with all these groups, while I go through life quite relaxed,” quotes the Leiden student magazine “Mare”. the prime minister. And very important for a head of government: the old Nokia cannot be bugged. “If I come from abroad, my smartphone has to be flattened, but I can keep my Nokia.”

Don’t let your smartphone rule your life

For many Dutch people, including young people, it is less about secrecy and more about slowing down. “I want my phone to do what I want, not my phone telling me what to do through algorithms and notifications,” Beek Groot told De Volkskrant newspaper. The directing student at the Dutch Film Academy is 26 years old and uses the Nokia 2720 clamshell phone – with large buttons and an automatic alarm button, it is clearly intended for an older target group. Apart from a better camera, however, he doesn’t miss anything, says the young film student, least of all social media apps. “Facebook and Instagram are useless,” says Groot, “they just want to make money off you.” According to his own statement, he doesn’t need them to keep in touch with his friends.

While the Prime Minister admits that he mainly uses his dumbphone because it allows him to work faster with it than with a full-fledged smartphone, discussion forums on platforms like Reddit show that digital minimalism is increasingly a trend among young people, and not only in the Netherlands. According to current figures, global sales of simple mobile phones have increased from 400 million units in 2019 to around one billion in 2021 (for comparison: 1.4 billion smartphones were sold worldwide in 2021; a decrease of 12.5 percent compared to the previous year). Dumbphone maker Light Phone co-founder Kaiwei Tang told the BBC that most of its customers are between the ages of 25 and 35.

Dumbphone: remedy for “mental itching”

The trend shows that many smartphone users feel driven by their cell phone. No wonder, with an average usage of three to four hours a day and numerous apps that take advantage of the way human attention works. Stefan van der Stigchel from the AttentionLab at the Universities of Utrecht and Leiden describes attention as our filter of the world to focus on potentially dangerous or important situations in the immediate vicinity. One little sign and we’re already getting distracted. That’s why we can hardly resist the sounds or vibrations of smartphones, explains the professor of cognitive psychology.

In addition, according to van der Stigchel, every message could be worthwhile, whether it could be a longed-for loving text message or an impatiently awaited reply to an important e-mail. News you don’t want to miss. Even if we resist the impulses, a kind of “mental itch” remains. Apparently, many smartphone users no longer want to feel that. With the help of a dumbphone, they want to stay communicative without feeling driven. Or they use dumbphones for a while to find out what features they really miss. You can then adapt the smartphone to your own needs and use it again.

This is also recommended by psychologist van der Stigchel, who basically describes smartphones as “a fantastic thing”. Just like Prime Minister Rutte. “It’s nice, but it takes so much time,” said the politician during his meeting with Dutch students. “Better read a book or a newspaper.”

Sources: “De Volkskrant”; “Mare”; BBC; SAGE Journals; Counterpoint