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The Smart Phone Debate - Staging Mutiny on a Technical Bounty

I work in Information Technology and what that means is I am commercially ordained to know the name and release date of every gadget, iPhone, and Android upgrade, along with the newest digital toy to perform my craft or just have fun. Since IT folk are known as a little eccentric, perhaps it shouldn’t be strange that one of us has staged mutiny on such a technical bounty.

I was aware of the anti-smart phone studies pointing to how disconnected we are from others and how romantically attached we are to these devices but I stopped using this contrivance for other reasons, deeply embroiled in my own experiment of living without one. One could say I was thrust into finding myself as this rapid mobile, cloud, and social media growth continues. Though one part of me passed it off as a phase, another part gave myself an option to renew such abstinence every 30 days. Something else was “a-brewing.”

What it was like

Ironically, I obtained my first smart phone to prevent unwanted calls. I had my number posted on a couple of tech sites and after 11+ years, it was getting out of hand. And let’s face it, after that amount of time there are some people out there whom you wish did not have your number.

What I didn’t know was I was entering into this world of instant gratification and soon my smart phone and I spent about two hours a day, “googling” whatever came to my mind, somehow followed by an endless marketing trail of hyperlinks for things I should own. I also downloaded apps for the convenience of doing anything, a junkie with no limits.

And then the bells and whistles (literally) started to annoy me. I thought I would reduce a few apps, set my “junk” email address to not auto update and be done with it. But with every application update came the “peculiar” behavior of apps being reset, leading me back to where I didn’t want to go. Also, the reason I purchased a smart phone wasn’t working out that well – blocking apps on the Android weren’t that sophisticated. So I decided to do something drastic, something I never wanted to do.

What Happened

I bought a burner phone and changed my number, which caused some immediate changes as I slugged through the “withdrawal” period. I was in such a funk I still carried around my “dead” smart phone in my purse, forgetting I could still use the apps when I had free Wi-Fi.

I was too busy learning how to achieve social connectivity and mobility in the old way. Since the phone is a lifeline for me, my first struggle was learning how to enter the most important numbers into this manual device (don’t laugh till your handed one). I also bought a Hello Kitty kitchen timer (since I was now sans apps) and a car GPS. I now snagged addresses of key places before an event, more of a challenge since I failed to mention that I have purposely not had Internet at home for two years. This again had more to do with the Internet being a distraction and I found I wouldn’t get my daily writing completed. Instead, I have daily access at cafés with Wi-Fi.

Some gawked at my phone with enthusiasm, thinking it was a new type of smart phone. Their sad faces looked so confused when I explained it had neither Internet nor the ability to receive photos or group texts. I realized I had excluded myself from an invisible technology clique but instead of feeling sad about that, it made me feel like a rebel.

So I continued.

After a couple of months of hell, which included constantly leaving this very unforgettable phone at home and work, I pushed forward, seeing enough benefits to try one more month.

Fast forward one year later. At this point I began transferring the remaining numbers from my smart phone, a task that became an inventory of who or what was important to me then and now. Deleted were names I did and didn’t recognize, random company numbers; Movie Times was now defunct as well as Wildflower Bloom Times for Central and Southern California, now found on the Internet.

Times were a ‘changing and so was I.

What it’s like Now

[i]A modern workforce study and report said, “Modern workers want to work wherever they are, not chained to a desk.” I agree. It also added, “…as the modern workforce becomes more connected through these technologies, the desire for and value of face-to-face communications and working socially in shared spaces have not diminished but are increasing.” These aren’t contradictory statements; certain companies have provided workspaces in various locations for years. Today local professional workspaces bring up that slack, offering an organic environment for business, networking, and collaboration.

So, if I’m all for mobility and connectivity, what’s changed and what hasn’t?

  • Though I've started to use smart device technology occasionally at a wifi hotspot (haven't permanently switched back yet), how I choose to use the technology is on my terms not the advertisers or phone industry.

  • I still use a manual phone to connect with people directly via a call or text. Since the device contains a SIM card, after three months of usage I was able to request it be converted to make and receive international calls. And after a year of use, it still takes five days for the battery to lose its charge.

  • There is a reduction in consumer spending due to lack of marketing that preys on my “you deserve it” whims of the moment.

  • I am not subject to random photos people send thinking I want to see them.

  • My punctuality has improved in that I have many more addresses on hand and my car GPS has a very long memory.

  • I became more focused and in tune with the flow of my surroundings at work and home.

  • I developed a discipline for using smart technology tools as they were intended – tools – without making them substitutes for a passive connection with the world via social media.

  • I gained a new discipline for Internet use – I rarely “surf” around, using my time for the laundry list of Internet tasks I need to perform five days a week.

  • More face time in the form of networking for social and professional needs.

  • More creative time to evolve stories, craft, sew, draw, paint, read audiobook and paper novels not just quickie mags, organize and attend Meetup events.

  • I still carry my smart phone because it has a great camera and when connected, I email the photos or post them on Instagram. I’ll upload a comment after a Meetup event, read blogs I follow, tweet, retweet causes I support, check email, and perhaps play a game or map out directions. And this takes about 15-20 minutes.

So, what do I see as the greatest tragedy of our “smart” devices? Like an addict looking for something more interesting outside her, devices can take us away from what is happening in the present moment, promoting an escapist mentality (as opposed to unplugging and taking a break). And escapism is a “luxury” our fellow humans, flora, and fauna can no longer afford.

[i] Stowe Boyd, “The modern workforce, part I: supporting the platforms for productivity: mobile, BYOD, and cloud,” Gigaom Research, April 21, 2014,

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