Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Vanishing Usefulness Of My Smart Phone

I have had my Smart Phone for approximately five years.  It was a gift from The Ravishing Mrs. TB, something to get me "plugged in" to real world from the previous Flip Phone.

The Modern Smart Phone is a miracle of replacement technology.  Without using any of its communication features it has successfully replaced the watch (pocket and wrist), the calculator, the music storage and playing device (a.k.a. The Walkman), the physical notepad, the camera, and the pocket flashlight (by far the most useful feature).  It makes all kinds of communication, written and verbal, possible.  It allows one to check in on one's children in a way my parent's generation must have only dreamed of.  Add to that its functionality as a entertainment and knowledge center - literally, the world is right at your fingertips - and you have essentially poured all of the human experience into something you can hold in your hands. 

And yet I am considering it to be more and more of a paperweight.

The Smart Phone has changed our behavior.  We are now a people that spend most of our time with our heads downward facing our screens, a pack of hollow eyed zombies stumbling over curbs and into walls as we walk.  We interact with the phone - through selfies, through conversation, through laughing at what we see - as much or more so than with actual people at this point. The world slowly becomes invisible except as viewed through a screen.

It has also changed how we respond to each other.  In days past, responses were largely a result of personal interaction.  Now, the omnipresence of the Smart Phone and the power of text make everything a "right now" response.  If you are not responding "right now", something is obviously wrong or you are simply not paying attention.  The sender has now become the most important person in the room - by not being in the room.

But for me, the question has become very much about how I actually use the phone - as a communication device.  Frankly, I really do not any more.  The handful of calls I make or get outside of family are either recruiters or people trying to sell me something.  My texts, which originally seemed to replace the calls, are simply an extension of this as well. 

In other words, I scarcely use my communication device to communicate anymore.

Will I ditch the phone immediately?  Of course not.  It works, it is paid for, and it does have that rather useful flashlight.  But I am reaching zero initiative on getting a replacement model if and when this one perishes.  I can do a lot of what the phone does on my computer.  I can get an actual phone for people who actually want to call me (or text, I suppose).

I will sure miss the flashlight though.


  1. It's a tool, TB. Nothing more. A lot of people make these devices into devils they are not. The people that walk out into traffic and into lamp posts like zombies are nothing but Darwinian industrial accidents that are treating their tools like toys. They are fools addicted to their toys and I can't see a man like you turning into something like that. I swore I would never have one too, but the practicality of these things is just too much to throw away. Think of it - you have the Encyclopedia Galactica right in your pocket! Our ancestors would have given limbs in exchange for such a tool. Use it as one, master it, don't let it master you - and smile.

    I also mildly disagree with the idea of the phone replacing the watch. I am a watch hound that gets into jewelled movements, BPH, and the other design aspects of these beautiful tiny machines. A cell phone can never offer the manly elegance of a good diver or aviator chronograph. A cell phone will never replace my battered, trusty Mag Lite. Or leatherman, or the other day to day tools all men should have at their immediate disposal. As long as you use it as a tool and don't rely on it to do your thinking or homework for you - they offer too many advantages to be ignored.

  2. I do not think I will ever risk turning it into anything other than a tool - but 30 years ago, the story might have been different (I used to be into computer gaming a great deal - now I can hardly stand one for the time investment it represents). And they do have a lot of incredible uses that they can do. The question is, do I use them that way? Or is it less of a tool and more of a handcuff (the fact that I can check my work e-mail on my phone is not necessarily the greater development).

    I would agree with you as well about watches (I am a pocket watch man myself) but if I am completely honest, most people I know do not have watches. They have phones. Or they have the Igoogle watch, which allows you tell time - and get your mail without having to revert to your phone (which seems the long way around from having gotten the phone in the first place).

  3. Well, I'm another one who doesn't get it - the obsession with so called smart phones. When I first started blogging a number of people accused me of being an isolationist because I wanted to be more self-reliant. Yet nothing isolates people more than modern technology. The agrarian lifestyle truly fosters a real community with real people, yet folks live in a world where they don't even know their next door neighbors and don't know how to talk to someone without focusing on a hunk of plastic. Ironic, isn't it?

  4. It is an interesting contrast, is it not Leigh? The very thing which is promoted as bringing the world "more together" seems to isolate us even more - and somewhat ironically, it is the agricultural life that is presented as being the one which "isolates" people.

    I will say that the smartphone as a function of the InterWeb is useful in that it has helped me to connect with people all over the world who are interested in the same things I am, and in many cases has helped me build better relationships than I have in the "real" world.

    But on the whole yes, it is a tool of isolation. Cleverly disguised as making your life better.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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