Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why I have no smartphone

Two thematically-related viral videos have been making the rounds recently:

An advertisement, ironically enough made by the largest Thai mobile phone company, DTAC.

A short film, called "I Forgot My Phone," from Charlene deGuzman.

I love technology, but I already have problems with distractions -- when I'm talking to someone in a room where the TV is on, for instance, I find my eyes being drawn to it instead of the other person. I'm also introverted by nature, and on the rare occasion when I do have a smartphone in hand, I tend to retreat into electronic pacifier mode rather than looking up and engaging with the people around me. Introversion isn't a failing, per se, but I believe I should overcome these tendencies if I want to keep making friends. For these and other reasons I've made the deliberate choice not to own or carry a phone, tablet or other portable electronic device that attaches to the Internet. Yeah, it's occasionally been inconvenient -- for example, Miss V prefers to have me reachable 24/7 -- but as recently as the 1980s, people somehow managed to get things done without ubiquitous portable phones and Internet access.

Of course, I'm not the only one with a tendency to mentally retreat into technology. Miss V has noticed that several of her friends will not respond to phone calls -- they will only reply if you text them. I suspect that texting, which allows introverts the luxury of taking as long as they want to respond and crafting their responses until they're just right, is yet another layer of security-blanket technology for people who are developing a phobia of real-time conversation with all its potential hazards, awkward pauses, etc. (Of course, there's no guarantee that texting will create a flawless conversation either... look up "Damn You Autocorrect" sometime when you don't have any kind of beverage near your keyboard.) But engaging with life means allowing yourself to be awkward at times, to say the wrong thing, to make a disastrous first impression and then have to spend time trying to correct it later. It means stepping up to the plate, being flawed and goofy and wonderfully human.

And anyway, there are worse things than being awkward. Being absent, for one.


Tara Chang said...

Do you have a non-smart cellphone though? Not any fun to 'play' with, but essential for connection with teenagers in our experience (I didn't get a smart phone until last year - at Kailin's insistence. I occasionally text/instagram when people are around - but it's usually short and then I'm back to wanting to interact rather than phone).

Douglas Cootey said...

Although both videos are exaggerations of a common problem, I have seen herds of hunched people grazing on their smartphones for sustenance. I think it can be a problem. However, the benefits of my iPhone are worth the extra cost every month, and although I post a lot online, I do get out. Not every sunset I see has to be shared. Not every moment of beauty or wonder needs to be recorded.

I have worried about how I'll handle this when I start dating again. Many of the women I've met that are my age aren't online. That is something that worries me, too! What will we have in common if I have to explain Twitter? On the other hand, am I ready for a date that spends more time texting than talking with me? I'm more likely to get up and go home at that point than argue for attention.

It's an interesting time we live in.

Soozcat said...

Tara: I don't have a dumbphone either. Probably because there are times when I *like* to be unavailable. (I'm naughty that way.)

Soozcat said...

Douglas: it sounds like you have a good understanding of balanced use of tech. I'm not very good at it. On occasions when I do have a smartphone in hand (hubby's, for instance), I get sucked in. Since I can't engage with it appropriately, I've decided to do without.

We do live in an interesting time. One where people can connect more than ever in some ways, yet can choose to disconnect from life more than at any other time in history. Weird.

djole said...

One facet of growing up is being to handle the state of non-stimulus, aka being bored. Many kids are not learning to amuse themselves, but that they must be amused.
That is a problem of "smart" phones which I see.

Soozcat said...

Very true. The other potential hazard of smartphones is, I suppose, the general hazard of having continuous Internet access: if you don't set clear limits for yourself, it's very easy to wander into here-be-dragons territory, especially when you're bored.