Why I Don’t Want a Smart Phone

hand old retro phone
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

I still use an old flip phone. It makes calls. It can send texts, albeit not long ones. It even has a camera, although the lens is so smudged it’s basically useless.

Would it be fun to have a phone with apps and a better camera and a connection to Cloud storage? Sure, it would. In fact, that’s exactly the problem–I’d spend all of my time on it. 

Carrie Rubin tweeted this earlier today:

By coincidence, I was reading Paul Graham’s 2010 essay, “The Acceleration of Addictiveness” earlier in the day, in which he says:

“Most people I know have problems with Internet addiction. We’re all trying to figure out our own customs for getting free of it. That’s why I don’t have an iPhone, for example; the last thing I want is for the Internet to follow me out into the world.”

He’s right. Our challenge now is to get away from all the technology. Like I wrote the other week, it’s getting harder and harder to avoid the ever-increasing growth rate of technology. We are getting swamped by it.

The flip phone is bad enough as it is. Recently, I read that keeping your phone in your pocket (where I’d always kept it) can cause male infertility.¹ So I started keeping my phone in a briefcase, and leaving it behind when I go for a walk or go to the gym. It was amazing how liberating this felt—rather than checking the time every couple minutes, or looking to see if I had new messages, I just figured “it can wait”. And it can. 

I realize that sometimes you want to have your phone. I’m fortunate in that my gym is practically next door to where I live. If it were farther, and I wanted to take my phone, I’d take a gym bag. But I’m rapidly getting addicted to going for walks without it. If you feel unsafe walking alone without your phone, I suggest trying to find a friend or group of friends to go with you—you can have better conversation and get some exercise as well.²

When I wrote The Directorate, I ran up against the problem of how to devise some even more powerful and omni-present technology than smart phones for the characters to use. It seemed like they’d have that by 2223. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to think our current technologies dominate life to a degree that already seemed like something out of sci-fi. And at that point, I realized the really futuristic innovation might be if people would opt out of being constantly attached to their communication devices.

I’m not anti-technology by any stretch. I couldn’t do most of the stuff that I do for work and for fun without computers, game consoles and, of course, my trusty iPad. I wouldn’t have anybody to write this for if the internet didn’t connect me with wonderful people all over the world. But as with all good things, you need to have some discipline so you don’t overdo it. A smart phone just makes it that much harder for me to maintain that discipline.

Footnotes

  1. To be fair, the evidence on this is mixed. When I researched it, I found plenty of places saying there was “no clear link” as well. Cell phones are relatively new; it’ll probably be a while yet before the researchers come to any definite conclusions. But I’m playing it safe on this one.
  2. I know, there’s something to be said for solo walks, too. Believe me, I’m a misanthrope an introvert; I get it.

11 Comments

  1. More people need to be like you. I heard a story somewhere that there is a community in Silicon Valley where all of the tech company executives send their kids to a school that has no computers. What is really disheartening to me is when I see little kids who are barely out of diapers swiping away on a parent’s smart phone or tablet. They are so impressionable at that age and can learn so much and what they’re given is a device that will eventually steal their brain away from them.

    It’s amazing how quickly the human race has accepted this and allowed for such fundamental and negative changes in how we interact with each other and with our world.

    But I will say … I love having the Spotify app on my smart phone. 😉

    1. It is interesting how tech people are particularly aware of the bad side effects. (That Graham fellow I quoted in the post is a tech startup founder and venture capitalist.) Sometimes it seems like they’re happy to sell it to the rest of us, but *they* sure aren’t using it.

      But yeah, that’s the thing about technology–it offers lots of benefits that are genuinely helpful, useful and fun. Too much so, at least if you have an easily-addicted personality like I do.

      1. A lot of people are losing some pretty basic human skills because of their dependence on their phones. We might as well just skip ahead to the implanted chip that tells us what to think and feel.

  2. I, too, hope what you’ve predicted happens in the future. A time when there are no more cigarettes, processed food has become harder to find than fresh, news goes back to being presented as news, and we’re no longer tethered to our devices. 😁 Thanks for the mention!

  3. I think it’s great that you’ve voluntarily limited your technology access. As you mentioned, the best way to strike a balance is not obvious in the modern world, but it seems you’ve found a fantastic way to approach it. I’m constantly trying (and failing) to keep my phone away when I’m not at work…trying to achieve that ever-evasive total presence. The convenience is undeniable (e.g., I use Google Sheets to document my workout sessions and MyFitnessPal to track nutritional intake), but that’s the rub…at what price does that all come?

    1. It’s a constant struggle to balance all the positive and negatives, for sure. The “ideal” equilibrium probably differs from person to person.

  4. I take walks with my dog. It makes her happy, I get out of the house for a few minutes. I take a walking pole to ward off other dogs. Mine doesn’t play well with others and wants to pick fights with the pit bulls down the street.

    1. Yep; nothing like walking the dog to get away for a bit. I hope those pit bulls are securely locked away, though. I was bitten by one once. Not fun–they are strong!

  5. No, there owner and I cross paths, he keeps his in control with a walking pole as I do mine. We get along fine that way. BTW, I have a smart phone, I get Amazon Prime music, my own music and when driving don’t have to listen to the crap on the radio. I read from the Kindle on it. I keep all the other crap off of it.

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