They’re partying like it’s 1999.
Young Gen Z women, after trying on skinny jeans and rehabilitating tramp stamps, are once more looking to the turn of the century — before most of them were even born — for the latest must-have accessory for a night on the town: the humble flip phone.
“We don’t take our regular phones out anymore. Everything that leads to us having a bad time stems from our phone,” explained 18-year-old influencer Sammy Palazzolo in a now-viral TikTok video, which has snagged 13 million views and counting.
Palazzolo may have been born into a world of smartphones and social media, but she’s one of many teenagers and young adults souring toward screens — or, at least, staring into them 24/7.
A student at the University of Illinois, Palazzolo recently bought an AT&T Cingular Flex flip phone — a fairly modern update on the Y2K essential, with basic photo and video capabilities — to use during college-town nightlife crawls with pal Reagan Boeder, also 18.
Opting for the lower-tech telephone keeps the gaffe-averse advertising major away from social media, dating apps and other potential pitfalls, allowing her mostly to text — very slowly, using T9 texting — and share fun photos and videos with her closest pals.
“[It] eliminates accidental drunk posts, drunk texts, bad hook-ups, it eliminates all the bad things about college and brings all the good things about a phone, which is connecting with people,” Palazzolo explained.
Palazzolo first tried to switch to a flip phone when she was 16, but her parents panicked at the thought of not being able to track her. Once old enough, she was eager to dive into what she perceives to be the more carefree aesthetic of the early 2000s.
“I think that era was fun for playing with style, playing with fashion and also just playing in general. I think girls were always going out and having fun, and really making the most of everything,” Palazzolo said of the time when paparazzi snaps of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan partying with their flip phones filled the pages of every glossy magazine.
Once she finally took the plunge, her choice to go retro resonated — and then some — with her peers. Beside Palazzolo’s own viral fame on TikTok, the hashtag #flipphone now has more than 545.5 million views.
Caitlin Kunz, 21, is responsible for at least a few million of those impressions. She was eager to snag her first smartphone in her early teens, but after nearly a decade, the New Zealander told The Post, she felt like she needed to take a step back. In September, she decided to buy matching flip phones with her best friend, Mary.
“We got it as a way to still be safe when we go out and not have to rely on an iPhone,” she explained.
Kunz posted a quick video to TikTok showing herself buying and bedazzling the phone and was shocked when the clip, which now has 3.2 million views, went viral overnight.
She hopes she has encouraged others to make the switch, claiming that she has noticed improvements in her physical and mental health — better sleep, fewer migraines and reducing her screen time from 12 to 3 hours per day, which has led to less time comparing herself to others online.
Evidence from years of scientific studies have linked the rise of smartphones and social media use to the increase in mental distress, self-harm and suicide among teens and young adults — specifically among girls. Concurrently, 87% of Gen Zers feel comfortable talking about mental health with others and are more conscious about their overall health than older generations.
“I think it’s actually been better to live in the moment, be with your friends and just have those memories rather than checking your phone every five seconds, and making sure you haven’t missed anything,” Kunz said.
Palazzolo is in agreement. Since ditching her iPhone on her wild nights out, she has been enjoying herself much more.
“I’ve noticed myself just being more excited to be present. And really just pay attention to the people who I’m with in the moment and listen to them,” she said. “I’m able to better understand them, better listen to them and really foster those relationships in a sustainable way.”
Her bestie Boeder is also enjoying the fun of living in the moment with her flip phone while she’s out and hopes to keep it up through college, but isn’t sure it will be feasible after the next four years in undergrad.
“I think that once I get out of college it’ll be a little more difficult to try and keep that up,” Boeder, also a student at the University of Illinois, told The Post. But leaving her smart phone at home on the weekends has changed her relationship with it on the weekdays.
“It’s definitely made me realize how much time I spend on my phone in general and that’s kind of been something that I’ve been trying to work on,” she said.