Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reflections on having a Smart Phone

“Didn’t you get my e-mail?” she asked with more than a hint of both exasperation and incredulity in her voice.

Behold the smartphone. Wait … no … what? What’s a smartphone? The definition of this device is one capable of communicating via telephone calls and, and here is where the ‘smart’ comes from, sending/receiving email, text messages, surfing the internet and running third party programs.

Being a geek, I thought I should have one. In short order, it was receiving and sending emails and text messages, surfing the internet, and running an application  or two that I had downloaded to make my digital life easier.

I envisioned this device having an effect on my life similar to the effect my tablet had. To wit: got a question? Look it up. The spelling of a word, the definition of a word, the hours of a restaurant you’d just heard about? My tablet had taught me to virtually never leave such questions unanswered … it was always nearby and so much easier to get to and Google with than my desktop. I figured my SmartPhone would be even easier as it would be immediately available even more frequently than my tablet. I did not pay adequate heed to its capability to do those things in a restaurant, in church, at a sports venue, while taking a walk. In short, to do these things anywhere, giving it its capability to change my life.

A small joy I experienced BS ( i.e., Before-SmartPhone ) was, after an evening out with my wife or an excursion to, say, a writing class by myself, coming home and the anticipation as I checked up on my home life. AS ( After-SmartPhone ) I noticed that this sense was quite muted. BS, I would rush to my office computer ( and, later, to my tablet ) and check my email; AS, I’ve done that while out and there was no need to check. BS I had always been kind of excited about voice mail, too … who’d called, what’s new, who wants to talk. We have digital voice mail and send it to our email addresses. AS, been there, checked that, no news. BS, curiosity about the fate of my favorite sports team always drew me to Yahoo Sports on my computer ( later my tablet ) when I got home. AS, I had already checked well before getting home.

It is clearly my use of this device that is removing my sense of anticipation. When out, I could turn the phone off except for emergency use. An emergency of mine, that is. Someone having their own emergency would be out of luck, and I don’t want to do that. So I could respond to just phone calls. But I don’t have the heart to ignore everything but phone calls. On top of that there is the occasional text message or email that is not an emergency, but that I would want to see as soon as possible. I recognize I have cornered myself.

This experience clearly feels like being tethered to my home … isn’t it ironic that my wireless device tethers me? It takes no imagination to think I might have been similarly tethered to my office if I had had one of these when still working. Going home would not have taken me out of the office, and going out for an evening would not have taken me out of my home. It’s not a pleasant thought; it is yet another reason to embrace my retirement.

And … just perhaps ... it reveals that I am much more old-fashioned than I ever would have imagined.
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  1. I enjoyed this article. It goes into the aspect of us humans and technology and how the second affect the first. It inspired me to respond and echo your experience with some of mine.

    In my teenage time I frequently clashed with my grandfather's (silently, because I would not dare to stand or argue against his views) disapproval for the contemporary music, rock and roll that is, and his more so, disapproval of it to be played on the radio, record player, etc... in one and only way - the loud way. That was complete, generational lack of understanding of each others perceptions of the music. Obviously, my grandfather was not ready for the change. Later in life he became more understanding of it, and I myself, I had had grown to be more appreciative of the classic forms of the music, The point is, we become comfortable with what we know, and somewhat complacent and not eager to change. We tend to think, that the old is good and the new is inferior and sometimes plain stupid. On the other hand. Those how have not experienced life of BS (to use your term) think the old is irrelevant and -in their skewed view -somewhat retarded.
    Now, I do not have a smartphone yet, and most of the time, I am annoyed of my teens dependence on it. No kidding, I am old fashion too.
    Yet, I know that is inevitable, that I will have IT some day. I have already accustomed to texting (on my dumbphone) and almost cannot imagine going through the day without it. Thanks to texting we are all, as a family "doing more", because our availability is instant.
    Unlike the young generation, we, the old fashion people, we will have that constant struggle of wanting versus needing because we have experienced the quality and perks of life of BS (full of "curiosity" , "anticipation" etc. ). Young generation is growing without it in that respect. Sometimes, I wonder what they will become, growing up with the void of things we value so much.

    Interestingly, in the recent, pointless but entertaining after-all, critical exchange of opinions about BS and AS life qualities between us parents and our children, we mutually felt sorry for each other but with no regrets on either side at all.
    Perception is the reality.

  2. I loved your lengthy comment ... very thoughtful, very true.

    I, too, wonder about the 'next generation.' I am sure all will be fine ( somehow ). I do find it difficult to envision WHAT it will be and HOW it will be fine. But I do believe it will be.

    Not everything I value highly is, I recognize, actually important in the long run. It is easy to SAY that from the chair at my desk; it's not always to easy to live it.

    Thanks again,