This Is My Phone

This is my phone.  It’s a Sony-Ericsson camera phone, and I got it in 2009.  On purpose.  Laugh if you want to, I’ve heard it already.

20091101_027

So, given the picture directly above this…what is the big deal currently about always being “connected?”  Why are people always staring at their phone screenswhile walking, while eating, while dating, while driving — what is so great about being so connected?  I think the country has taken a huge step downhill because of all this connected-ness.

I know that anyone reading this is waving their hand in the air and yelling, “Oo, oo, OO!  But you’ve NEVER experienced it!  You don’t even know!”  Well, you’re wrong.  I’m not a Philistine, I’ve HAD a smartphone before.  I carried a work-supplied (read, free) iPhone everywhere for almost two years.  It was a great tool — having a mobile internet device in my pocket was amazing.  Always having maps, and weather, and restaurant reviews wherever I was?  Wonderful!

And…I’m an I.T. professional.  Yes, a bona-fide, degree-holding computer nerd.  I should be clamoring for the latest and greatest of smartphones and apps, and should be the worst offender of the bunch…

But I didn’t spend all my time with my face in the phone.  Texting is a wonderful tool…but there were large chunks of time that I simply didn’t have anything to say.  Facebook is a great time-killer…but there were many things that just weren’t worth sending to other people.  I could go on with specifics, but the gist is:  I didn’t feel the need to always be connected to other people, no matter how cool the device in my pocket.

When did a phone stop being a tool, and start being a lifestyle?  More importantly, when did the phone stop being a tool, and start being your overlord?  I see you, all of you, dropping everything at every “bing” and “boop” and “br-ring cha-cha-cha -woogie” (or whatever ringtone).  Conversations stop.  Checkout clerks are ignored.  Waiters are snubbed.  Red lights are run.  My own wife does it — every time that phone dings, she jumps to answer it.  My mother-in-law does it — every time that phone rings, people in the room with her are 2nd-class citizens.

What happened to the concept that a phone is there for my convenience, not the convenience of the people trying to reach me?  I’ve been talking to people and had my phone ring, and when I ignore it they start to fidget, and actually ask me “aren’t you going to get that?”  They’re nonplussed when I say “no, I’m talking to you, they can leave a message.”  Because they don’t do that.

Just tonight, my mother-in-law wanted my wife to call her.  So she called the house, and I took a message.  And she texted my wife’s phone.  And called her phone.  And called our house again and left a voicemail when we didn’t pick up. (we were eating dinner)  Dear Lord, we (not just my MIL now) go absolutely monkey-nutz crazy when we can’t get hold of someone when we want to.  The assumption is that they don’t answer because they can’t, not because they don’t want to.

So yes, that is my phone.  And I have a funky pay-as-you-go plan that ensures I don’t answer the phone if it rings, unless it’s my family with an emergency, because it’ll cost me money. The plan also ensures I don’t call people just for the heck of it… because it’ll cost me money.  People at work can’t fathom the concept.  They’re all connected.  I hear it.  “If you need me, send me a text.”  Pause.  “Oh, that’s right.  Your ancient phone can’t text.  I forgot.”  Granted, that particular co-worker is kind of bitchy in general.  The sentiment is similar among all of them, though.

But you know?  I don’t really care.  I kind of LIKE not being so connected.  I would, at the same time, like to have a smartphone again…but because it’s so darned useful to always be able to find an address, or a place to eat, or a comparative price at the store.  I miss that.  I don’t miss being connected.

If/when I do finally replace my old phone, I don’t plan to give everyone the number. I still plan to ignore calls and texts, if it’s not convenient to answer.  I still think of a smartphone as my tool, not my boss.  I really wish more people would do the same.

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