Living Dumb in a World of Smarts

As a 32-year old man, I’ve been able to see a significant evolution in the way we communicate with each other. As a child, my family had three or four corded-phones spread through our house, so if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to stay put. Eventually, sometime around third grade or so, my family finally experienced the true freedom of a cordless phone and that’s when it all changed. I was able to take my phone into my room, the TV room, heck, even the bathroom if I wanted! This was something so wild and so new to me, I felt that I could go ANYWHERE (within the confines of my house). Then came dial-up internet, and then eventually the first wave of non-“Zach Morris” cellphones. 

The funny, and somewhat ironic, thing about my cellular phone journey is that I feel I was an early-adopter. It seems the nostalgic folk tend to talk about the giant Nokia “brick,” but I remember my first phone being an even earlier, more fragile version of that. This was a glossy black phone that pretty much broke as soon as I plugged it in. Seriously, I plugged it in and the little metal piece inside the charging port broke off. It was a nightmare.

Anyway, eventually I got the “brick” and then another iteration of that afterwards. Once the fall of 2004 hit, I finally got a phone with text capabilities (I know I’m literally and figuratively dating myself here) and this was HUGE! As the years progressed, I was riding high on fitting in with my socially acceptable phone. Sure, some elite members of the bourgeois had Palm Pilots and Blackberrys, but they were the weird ones. But then, Steve Jobs turned everything on its ear. 

The release of the very first iPhone marks my initial descent into absurdity. This wasn’t even a slow decline either. One moment, I was amongst the masses, and the next, I was alone. Now at this time, I really DID want to get a smartphone. I mean, the idea of having a computer in your pocket was incredibly tempting. I was green with envy toward anyone who had one. Then I looked at the price of everything, the phone itself, the monthly bill, what they would charge if you went over data, and I no longer wanted one.

One thing you’ve got to know about me is that I’m a very frugal man. Now, I’m not stingy by any means. I just like to prioritize my finances, and since I was a broke college student at the time, owning one of these magical little pocket devices became a non-necessity. So from there on out, I lived my life with the knowledge that I just couldn’t afford such a luxury. 

As the years passed, I would increasingly get questioned as to why I didn’t have a smartphone, and at first, I would respond by telling them that I couldn’t afford it. But then something changed. I started to notice everyone around me constantly hypnotized by the screens in front of them. Nothing in real life seemed interesting to anyone anymore. I would go out to dinner with a group or even just one other person, and they would all just scroll through their Instagram or Facebook feeds. Then, their form of interacting with me would be to show me what they were looking at.

To be honest, it was really stupid. Then I came to the realization that if I had a phone like that, I would probably fall victim to the constant distraction as well. And from then on, I was more than ok with my “dumb phone.”

With most advancements in technology (or trends in pop culture), there tends to be a sort of pendulum effect. At first, everyone is very excited. They fully embrace whatever the new thing is and praise it. But eventually the pendulum swings the other way. In my case, people started to notice how they became too reliant and obsessed with the convenience of smartphones, and started to long for the days of being more disconnected. But oddly enough the world kept advancing and made it nearly impossible for them to go back. And this is where owning a “dumb phone” somewhat became part of my identity. 

At the time, I was working as a security guard at a bar. Folks would walk in and out, notice me texting someone (because that’s about all I could do with my phone) and make comments like, “Oh man, what kind of phone is that?” or “Is THAT a flip phone? How do you function with that?” It was a nice conversation starter. I felt like my lack of reliance on modern technology made me some kind of relic of the past. It was very neat. Eventually, the folks that I worked with or got to know at that time knew me as the guy with the old phone. Regardless if they were trying to take a jab at me or not, I fully embraced it. After all, not being connected with apps did yield amazing benefits. I NEVER had to pay for an Uber or Lyft, I was always attentive, and I actually got to know where things were because I didn’t have a GPS.

And just as soon as I was getting used to this little quirk of mine, this beautiful agency took it all away. I started to feel that in my new position as copywriter, it would probably be relatively beneficial that I have a phone that allows me to connect to the internet. This way I can check emails and quickly communicate. Now that I’ve finally joined the ranks a mere ten years after the birth of smartphones, I’m very much hyper-aware of what I need to do to become a decent owner. I have most of my distracting notifications off, keeping my apps very limited, and ensuring that my phone is away when I’m around someone else. Now you’d think that this would be commonplace with any phone owner, but it’s really not.

Listen, you can call me a “sellout” or what have you (I mean I wish you wouldn’t, because chances are I’ve never met you before), but this was a necessary change. I needed to join the ranks to successfully do my job. And you know what, there are a lot of great things these little devices have to offer. WHO KNEW? I could probably list off the things I really like about my new phone, but it’s still new to me and you probably already know and have taken these things for granted. But as a new owner, I want to let you all know: YOU HAVE A MIRACLE IN YOUR POCKETS/HANDS, AND YOU COULDN’T BE MORE BORED BY IT! WE ARE IN POSSESSION OF SCI-FI TECHNOLOGY, APPRECIATE IT FOR WHAT IT IS!

Anyway, I’m going to go back to figuring out how this whole thing works without the convenience of T9 typing.

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