So who am I supposed to text again?

anwering machine

Remember when you could just be, like, not home?
(thanks to ebay seller shopdontdrop2010)

About a month ago I purchased an overly-sensitive, overpriced, needy, demanding, uncomfortable piece of baggage otherwise known as a smartphone. I don’t think I’ve ever hated any gadget this much. This phone is so irrelevant to me that I’ve stopped carrying it out of sheer rebellion. I miss my little black cellphone which fit perfectly into my jeans pocket. This unwieldy 3 x 5 ½ slab of hardware is annoying in my pocket when I bend down to pick up litter every few feet on my walks, a time it seems wise to have a phone. It doesn’t fit into the side pocket of my purse either.

Once a year when our contracts are up we holdouts have to decide whether we can tolerate another year of shame. Of not looking smart. (I saw what I’ve always thought was a homeless guy with one the other day—I guess he couldn’t take it either). I’ve never seen such pressure to conform in my lifetime. I feel like a sellout. I’m more ashamed that we’re now paying double what the cellphones cost per month than I was about pulling out the little black antique in public.

I hate texting, hate seeing people’s heads always pointed down, or seeing phones poised over steering wheels. I work two jobs, alone, and the people I do communicate with deserve a phone call or email. I found out I don’t need to check my email when I’m not home, don’t like screen games, don’t need GPS (I love maps—the journey, ya know?), and, it’s a pain in the ass always digging around for my reading glasses to see the screen. How do all you middle-aged presbyopics deal with this?

This month the must-have apps promise success of your new year’s resolutions. Well first of all new year’s resolutions are lame—you don’t really take them seriously, you just think you have to proclaim them because everybody else does. Why wait until January 1? We all needed to drop twenty pounds last August, but we get a free five-month fat pass? Here’s a great app for you—self-control.

I’m amazed at the cultural pressure to have an active social life whether you want it or not. And in between girls-night-out and guys-over-to-watch-the-game, you’re supposed to stay connected. There’s a not-so-subtle discrimination against people not on Facebook or other social media. Are people that terrified of being alone with their thoughts, their job, a book, a movie, a pet? Do modern humans need to report in every time two neurons complete a synapse?

My cell phone was one tough little simpleton, it could go days without a charge. This one is a whiny little wuss. Every time I look at it it’s down another 20%. It’s harder to use than is necessary. Emergency or not, I’d still have to find a pair of reading glasses. The screen is always flipping around, the keypad disappears, it nags me with updates, it’s always filthy. It tells me I’ve entered my password incorrectly or have done something that makes it impossible to retrieve a voice mail. So I hold the phone like it’s a turd, careful not to touch anything.

People say once you have one, you won’t be able to live without it. Anything’s possible I guess. Why just the other day I saw my dogs out in the yard with plastic bags and little shovels picking up their own poop. Now that’s smart.

49 responses to “So who am I supposed to text again?

  1. Too funny! It is getting harder and harder to remain a Luddite, eh? :)

  2. Oddly enough, just this very night, I suggested to Elvira that perhaps we needed a smart phone to pull us out of this sense of loneliness and despair as this stink’n winter drools on. She raised her head, looked at me with those big brown eyes, yawned, stretched, then fell back to sleep. ‘Ach yer a goot doogie’, I thought. I have a smart dog, no need for a smart phone.

    • Ach, goot fer you. Because it’s not going to pull you out of anything, just drag you in deeper. I know winter has a ways to go up there, but I have faith you’ll weather it out and continue to find the beauty. Elvira, thank you for your wisdom. If only I had listened to my dogs. Poor things they hate it when I yell at the phone.

  3. Before I got my smartphone I was really considering just getting one of those flip phones just to show people how much I don’t give a crap. However, I was bored and wanted to see for myself what it was all about. If you don’t text or care to go on the web with your phone then a smartphone is just more trouble than it’s worth.

    I think it deserves a little credit though. That high definition camera takes some quality photos and when you are lonely you can activate the pre-recorded robotic female voice and tell her what you want it to do. It gets me through some of those lonely nights out at sea.

    Anyone with a network of friends, co-workers, or family in their lives would probably have to go to rehab of some sort if they had to part with their phone for an extended amount of time. It’s pretty much an addiction, eh?

    A smartphone is like life..it’s not for everyone.

    • OK you got me. That’s pretty much the only thing I like about it, not having to carry the big digital camera. I already ruined one good camera by leaving it in the hot car in the summer–but that doesn’t mean I won’t do the same thing to the smartphone. And you’re right, you can’t beat porn on the go, eh?

      I already have enough addictions. Thank god friends and family aren’t among them. So many demands. They’re not for everyone.

  4. I could live without mine but I don’t want to. It provides me with an easy way to write everywhere I go. Yeah a notebook and pen would work too but keyboards have ruined my handwriting. I think the muscles used to write by hand have atrophied. And if I write something long I can email it to myself and copy and paste.

    I like the convenience of texting, the camera, and portable email. I don’t play games, do social media, or any of that stuff. I don’t really understand the appeal. I don’t have time for it anyway.

    I do have my own set of smartphone issues. One of them is I don’t like touch screens. I really don’t like typing on touch screens. So I’m holding on to my full keyboard Nokia E71 for as long as I can.

    My biggest complaint is what smartphones do to people. Distracted driving, zombies wandering down the sidewalks as if lobotomized. I love to drive, feel the road, cut through traffic. I love my walk in the city and the people and things I see every day. Yet I’m constantly steering around people glued to their phones, both in my car and on foot. Everyone seems to agree with me, so then who are the people doing it?

    • Well that’s because you’re a soon-to-be-famous author with a family and kids and a job and her first book published! I still do a little notebook or a napkin or slip of paper because I can write without needing to see it. The t’s might not be crossed but I’ll know what I meant.

      The touch screen is very touchy, and the keys tiny. Our fingers could evolve into little points, but phones will be replaced by something far more invasive long before that.

      I don’t know who all these people are but there are millions, and to admit it would be like admitting to cheating on a test, nobody does it. Or maybe they’re so distracted they don’t actually know they’re doing it. One of the most enjoyable viral videos ever was the woman who fell into a Pennsylvania mall fountain while texting. Instead of getting plastic surgery and moving to another country, she sprang into action and sued the security guards for laughing and leaking the surveillance video.

      Employment for police sketch artists must be plummeting. So much for witnesses.

  5. I figure I’m not smart enough for a smart phone. My wife has one, but her work pays for it. She says she’ll want something when she retires at the end of March. Not sure what for.
    I have a “pay as you go” plan with 7-11. Yes, the convenience store people. The phone holds a charge for many, many days, and doesn’t do much other than allow me to get and receive calls or send the odd text now and again. Usually the text consists of, “I’m here”, when I have the car for the day and then need to go and fetch her.
    I *suppose* having something that picks up wi-fi so you can do “facetime” with someone is neat, but the only time I would have used that was when we were away on vacation, and the only person I would have had “facetime” with, was in the next room.
    No immediate plans for a “smart” phone. Best of luck with yours.

    • Your pay as you go plan looks mighty good to me right now. Unfortunately there’s no going back. I like your texting style.

      I think they’re great for people who travel a lot but I’m never that far away from my computer. It’s reassuring to know there are others who don’t mind keeping it simple!

  6. I love my Trac phone – pay as you go and only a semi-smart (or dumb) phone to deal with. Works for me! Just had grandkids here for Christmas. They would sit on the sofa next to each other and text rather than talk – SIGH!

    • Isn’t that amazing that people sit next to each other and don’t talk! I see kids coming home from school in a group and they’re all looking down at their phones–yikes! And I’ll tell ya another thing, if I ever went on a date with a guy and he started fiddling with his phone that’d be the end of it right there!

  7. And here’s another one who believes simple’s the way to go.

    I have two Motorola flip phones, c. 2003. One belonged to my mother, and its identical mate belongs to me. I have four batteries for them, which I found for 75 cents each on eBay. I’m sure my phone will die eventually, and when it does, I’ll just go to my backup and keep on trucking.

    The phone will text, although you have to push each numeral several times to get to certain letters of the alphabet, and I still can’t find a way to punctuate. I suppose it would take a photo, but I’ve never tried. I do know it’ll receive photos, because when I was on my trip to Kansas the kitty-sitter sent me a photo of Dixie Rose to prove she’d come out from under the bed.

    So – it does everything I need a phone to do. I can call my friends in England. If a hurricane strikes, I can text instead of call. If someone needs me, I have voice mail. Most of the time, I leave the phone in the car while I’m at work. I check it at noon, and in the evening when I quit work. If someone wants to call me at night, I answer.

    The way I figure it, these gadgets are the perfect illustration of my famous aphorism. It’s always been said that necessity is the mother of invention. I say that invention is the mother of necessity. First, the iPeople at the iFirm invent all this crap, and then they convince us we have to have it.

    Surprise, iPeople. I don’t have to have it. ;)

    • I am so proud of you. You have everything you need in a flip phone–I’m nostalgic already. I can’t believe I let myself get talked into this. It was so easy to retrieve voicemails on the cell phone.

      I love your aphorism, it should go into the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. It’s true for all of it, from 3D printers to pedestrian detection display on a car dashboard. Just think, if people didn’t text while driving they’d see that pedestrian and wouldn’t need warning beeps and flashing lights. Technology saves lives in science and medicine–but just because they can build stuff like Google Glass doesn’t mean they should.

  8. haha, holding it like a turd!!! SO true…..

    • It is true! An embarrassing thing happened soon after I got it. I ‘touched’ an email comment on a thread I was following, and it sent a blank comment to the blog from Find an Outlet with just that stupid ‘sent from my Verizon Wireless blah blah smartphone’! I wasn’t even logged in to WordPress–it’s impossible but it happened. So now I hardly touch the thing at all!

  9. Like you I only use my phone for actually calling people, but eventually succumbed to a smart phone, mainly for the weather warnings when we’re travelling. The other big draw, for my husband, when we’re in the US he can check the English football results without having to haul out our laptop.

  10. Smart phones have their Dumb areas also but learning how to take advantage of its features is not simple and requires some learning.I can’t walk but a power chair works well for me, I can’t use a regular wheel chair, lack of co-ordinadion in the arms won’t allow me to keep it going straight. The disease “FA” also slurs my speech where I can’t understand myself on a recording, so I can’t dictate to the phone and have it convert it to text but having oversize hands and fingers I can type on my computer and sync it to the phone ( shopping list) for example can then be viewed on the phone while in a store, even if they don’t have free wi-fi, I can’t read my writing either. I’m on BP meds and monitor my blood pressure which I keep on the phone, the Doctor can then look at records to notice any change and when it happened based on time and date. While traveling I use my phone as a modem to access the internet on my laptop. Paper maps work ok but they will not tell you where you are if you’re lost like the gps and map on a phone will.This is a short list of some of the things I like about my smart phone. Oh, and it reminds me of anything I tell it to like taking meds and other appoints, it has a lot better memory then I do.
    Mickey

    • Hi Mickey, I think it’s wonderful you’ve learned ways to help empower yourself with this technology. The more technology can serve us, the better. However, I believe it’s often us serving the corporations who hype it and the culture that supports it.

      I don’t think learning to use a smartphone is so much an issue as is how important it is to us—the motivation to figure it out will materialize if we care. I thought it would be important to me but it is not. It is neither inspiring nor necessary enough to devote my time (and money) to, so the frustration for me is personal.

      Thank you for your perspective. BTW, I tried to look at your blog but there was no link on your gravatar. There was a sign-up box for google+, but so far I’ve avoided it because the tracking they do is invasive to me. I would like to subscribe to your blog, if you can advise me how to do this I’d appreciate it.

      Best to you,
      Debra

  11. You are still the funniest blogger out there! I have a smart phone but because it’s smarter than me I have developed an inferiority complex. Just the other day I couldn’t remember how to open a text message and it asked me if I was having trouble. I couldn’t figure out how to tell it “yes, I am having trouble” and in a few seconds it asked me if I was having trouble answering the question. Of course I still didn’t know how to tell it yes. And then it asked me if I was done. I waited. I then received a message that said it would send me a text message to see if I need assistance.
    GAD!

    • Ha ha Bill that’s hilarious! You may need counseling! I had a similar experience and it finally asked me if I’d like to ‘skip to Twitter.’ As if! I imagine your smartphone is very reassuring when out in the wilds alone. I walk alone in the desert with Jada often, and it’s a good idea to have a phone—just not this one.

      Thanks for keeping with the spirit of this post. Once again it looks like I’ve pissed off a whole bunch of people. I’ve followed some comments to other blogs from bloggers who read this and are extremely defensive about their smartphones. Some have written new posts about how their smartphone saved their life, etc. They are so dependent on them they don’t remember all the times their lives were saved through their own ingenuity and resourcefulness.

      Over the years I have come to accept being a disconnected social misfit, but apparently it annoys others. I ran a DOS-based computer typesetting business before there were computers as we know them, have been an editor for 30 years, and currently work with three extremely complex databases with my word research job (mistakes are absolutely not allowed). But because I have no use for this smartphone, I must be an idiot. But I’m not alone—I just googled ‘I hate my smartphone’ and got 3 million hits. It’s a small tribe in comparison, but it should keep the folks demanding conformity from everyone busy for a while. Thanks for listening.

      • “There is nothing so rare or precious as a luddite!” (Bill Lattrell, 1/17/14). OK, I made the quote up. But that makes it even more quotable, right?

        I can’t believe that anyone would be upset about the fact you do not like your cell phone. Your next post on this topic needs to be a little more to the point. Something like “I HATE MY #@%&@ SMART PHONE!!!” This followed by absolutely no text, just a picture of your smart phone in the toilet with your hand on the flush handle.

        I think we all get that smart phones can be very useful devices. What people don’t understand is that they are missing much of the real world because they have their nose stuck to the smart phone screen all the time. Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, the real world is not encased in a piece of plastic with wires and a screen. EGAD!

        Like you, because I am an ecologist, I have to use electronics of all kinds all the time. I get that they are important. But they are a tool, nothing more and nothing less.

        Am I right?

        • Yes you are. You’re supposed to use a tool, not be one.

          LOL–and those rare and precious neo-luddites aren’t just cranky old people. They’re people who delight in experiencing all the tactile senses of life. The thrill of a map and an adventure (or misadventure!). Of asking the locals. Of talking to the person next to you. Of getting a card (made of paper, with writing on it) in the mail (the box outside your house). The freedom of being unavailable. Someday we’ll read about these things in an encyclopedia.

          Eventually we will all conform to the status quo, we have no choice, no matter what the technology is. In a few years cellphones will be obsolete, so there’s really no need to rave about your smartphone, is there. Soon people will be raving about their Google Glasses (which should be illegal, at least for my lifetime) which are out being tested by real people right now. And those people will shame the smartphone addicts and make them feel like freaks, and so on and so on. That’s when I go retreat to a cabin in the woods with a ham radio.

          • At the turn of the century there were some that clung to horse and buggy. The automobile would not be denied. And for the most part we aren’t better off for it, not in the big picture. We are further from where we started, often do not know our neighbors, and are so busy getting somewhere we don’t know where we’ve been.

            A cabin in the woods sounds just fine.

  12. JudyMae Johnson

    Download a flashlight app. That’s one of my favorite use of my smartphone. I jokingly call it my $500 flashlight. LOL. But I do use Google all the time – wanna know something, I will look it up for you. I have an Android phone and I love it. I use Google Maps to find not only the location of stores but can then just dial them right from the map app. Plus Google Maps tells me the store hours, too. I am one who couldn’t go back to a “dumb” phone again. I have had a smartphone since 1998 when it was just a smart PDA that could make phone calls and surf the Internet. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Although at 68, I am not all that old.

    • Dang Linda, slight glitch—when I clicked on the link I hit a paywall. But when I inserted the entire URL it popped right up.

      http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-flip-phone-met-20140116,0,456413.story?page=1&r=6556E7942034D8P

      Excerpt: A Chicago attorney who doesn’t use a smartphone said the lack of connectivity allows her to focus more on her job. “A smartphone is just something that’s constantly in people’s hands, and I have enough other things I want to do,” she said.

      Still, because of the potential stigma that comes with not being connected, the attorney, 31, did not want her name to be used in this article for fear she would come off as a “bad lawyer,” she said.

      There’s that ‘social stigma’ again. Usually when people don’t want their named used, it’s because they could get shot by a primitive government. Not because they admit their phone is a distraction. Unbelievable.

  13. I’m still hanging on to my “dumb phone” for dear life – unheard of for a twenty-something in marketing. My coworkers are highly tech-savvy, but fortunately don’t mock me for not having a smart phone or a Facebook account (lately the reactions are more like “You’re not on Facebook? You’re so lucky!”).

    There are moments I’d like to be able to snap a few pics or Google something, but it’s not worth turning into a zombie or spending all that money. Besides, there’s usually someone around who can do that stuff for me with THEIR phones. Also, I have Mapscos in my car.

    I waste enough time on the Net as it is – I have trouble socializing with people as it is. I don’t need another crutch/time sucker. I text occasionally, but usually just to make plans to meet people.

    I fear that someday we’ll all HAVE to have smartphones just to operate our cars, home thermostats, security systems, etc.. But until then, I remain a happy dumb phone user for $15/month.

    • Good for you Stephanie. You must feel the pressure in your business even if your coworkers don’t mock you. I think you’re right that smartphones or something like them will be needed to operate all the things in life we use, or that everything will have to be compliant. Wasn’t there just something in the news about refrigerators being hacked?

      Ha ha I’ve been trying to use the phone for pictures but there’s so much glare off this giant screen that I just took about 50 shots of a fire at someone’s house and I was holding the phone upside down the entire time! Really hard to see in the sun. I’m going to stick with my camera which seems to be made for my hands when I know I’m going to be photographing something.

      I really thought I’d want to Google stuff and look at emails when I’m not home but I continue to write things down on slips of paper and refuse to check my email until I get home. I’m never going to be that person this phone was made for.

      • I think the email checking thing is one of the main reasons I don’t want a smart phone – I’m big on separating work from the rest of my life. If there’s a real emergency, people can dig out my number and call me, but otherwise, it can wait till Monday morning. Of course I’m just a copywriter and don’t HAVE many work emergencies. If I was a PR person I’d probably have to be available 24/7. So that makes a big difference.

        • You mean your employer would email you at your personal email, or do employees check their work email over weekend, etc.? I can’t get used to the idea that a lot of people who have jobs (rather than being self-employed) are expected to be available at all times.

          • A lot of people check their work email at home. A lot of people work from home after hours – that’s how it is in this business. Hot projects all the time.

            But that doesn’t mean we’re expected to be available all the time. That’s only certain jobs. For instance, we handle social media for several clients, and if someone posted something inflammatory on a client’s Facebook page on a Saturday, we’d have to respond to them quickly. Or if something newsworthy affecting one of our clients happened over a weekend, our PR team would have to respond immediately with press releases, etc. Little things like that.

            If someone goes on vacation, though, someone else will step in to take care of those little emergencies. Also, where I work, everyone is super understanding of home life, so you don’t get in trouble if you have to leave suddenly to take care of something personal, or work from home for the afternoon while you wait for the cable guy.

            Of course, every Friday is also “bring your dog to work day” where I work, so we’re not exactly normal.

  14. Does anyone remember pay telephones? These were telephones that you could use one time by inserting a small amount of money into coin slots. They were not very smart but there were a lot of them available and you could call someone if you had a ‘need’.
    I have a TracFone that I use as a replacement for the pay telephones that have disappeared. I have to look up the number if I’m asked for it as I would have had to look up the number on a pay telephone. I never check it for messages because I don’t expect any, if I expected a call back I would stand by the pay telephone – I do the same thing with my TracFone.
    I have no problem being a Luddite, or a social misfit, and will never get a SmartPhone unless I am compelled to do so by the Federal Government with the threat of fines and jail time if I don’t buy one (even then I may decide it better to go to jail).

    • Hi Ed. Funny you should mention pay phones, looking for them is a weird little hobby of mine. There are still a few empty shells around here. I get excited to see one and then look closer and see the phone is gone. Do you ever see any functional ones in your travels?

      It’s been so good to hear from people who have resisted smartphones, I’m inspired by you. I will never give in to the pressure to have a certain gadget ever again, no matter how much people say they can’t live without it. I cringe when I pay the bill every month. You know I can actually see fines in our future for not conforming.

      Is there any way to subscribe to your blog?

      • We have a pay phone in our little town, Heath, MA. Of course there is no cell phone reception here because it is remote. I saw a note on the pay phone in the town hall the other day. The note read “Dear people of Heath. In other parts of the world they use devices called cell phones. You might try one out!” I laughed for about a half an hour!

        • Jeez, whoever wrote that probably hadn’t tried to use their cellphone–they’ll figure it out soon enough if they stick around a day or two, because no one can go that long without using their cellphone! Or maybe they’re hinting you need more towers…there are plenty of areas here in AZ where there is no service as well, and the folks who live there get along just fine!

          You know, there’s a word for people who don’t care much about modern wizardry–survivors!

  15. “Is there any way to subscribe to your blog?”

    I assume you are asking that question so you will know when I put up a new posting? You can not subscribe, my web site is ‘home grown’ and as much of a Luddite as the creator. I have been posting every day since I went on the road full time and expect to do so until I no longer do. Check my site everyday after 2:00 pm (my local time where ever I happen to be) that is when I try to have my new posting available (I’m late sometimes but get it done eventually).
    I quit looking for pay phones but may start again and join you in your hobby. HA

  16. A kindred soul … sniff … there’s so few of us left.
    The Spouse and I made the giant leap to a ‘smart’ phone a few months ago. ‘Nuff said. It has a hundred million totally unnecessary apps—we use it for texts (although on occasion I have used the stopwatch)(but don’t tell Spouse).

    As for keeping up with the herd, we’re ourselves enough that people are either happy to accept us or redundant to our circle. Small circle, real people; and they accept that we will not (r) not use an answer-phone (or be directed to a ‘left message’ somewhere).

    They also make a very satisfying ‘plop~!’ when you feel rebellious. Satisfying, but costly …

    • Ha ha there have been times I have come very close to violence toward my phone. One of the absurdities of American life is that everyone wants to be respected for their ‘differences,’ at least that’s what they say…yet their need to ‘belong’ eclipses that. This assumption that we’re all compliant with the new mandate of ‘keeping up’ with the vacuous stream of non-communication is primitive and forced.

      My circle is a lopsided hexagon with several points being canine. Thanks for helping to keep it real!

  17. Cat or dog in the circle = domestic harmony.
    {Messy sometimes—who hasn’t cleaned muddy paw prints on occasion? But open and honest.)

    People in the circle = egos = social compliances = not good. And if people want my respect they have to earn it. I give them goodwill which provides a window of opportunity, yes, but respect has to be earned. Would that all did the same. Animals are honest. I respect that …

    • Agree, be nice to everyone, benefit of the doubt and it’s just the decent thing to do. We find out soon enough if their flaws dovetail with ours. I love flaws—just not the disrespectful kind.

      Would you believe I actually used to call home and talk to the pets on the answering machine, if I was away. Impossible now, isn’t it—even if I got them all smartphones. There’s a good chance they’d be better at them than me though.

  18. My wife and I traveled for 11 years in our motor-home….We had no phone at all, smart or otherwise….We did have an answering service which we would call from a pay phone and check in every 2-3 days, sometime longer…Traveled all over the United States, Canada and Mexico…. Had 6 kids, 2 living parents and 3 siblings.In all that time nothing ever really happened that 72 hours made any difference….Somehow all the crisis got handled….Now, after saying that, if I start to the grocery store for milk and bread 5 miles down the road and get half way there and forgot my smart phone, its back to the house to get it……sheese…I’m so ashamed….

    • I know exactly what you mean…I often think back to the luxury of commodities not yet invented so there was no missing them. Of not being tracked or pursued or harassed or hounded, of being simply unavailable. I still like to pretend, by not always carrying the phone. You’re right, almost everything can wait. If not, call the cops.

      PS Alan, I’m unable to locate your website. I can click on your gravatar but your blog isn’t listed on it. Can you send me the link?

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