Wednesday, April 14, 2010

resisting the smartphone

As the screen on my humble Razor phone starts flaking out to the point where I cannot receive text messages without the whole thing seemingly short-circuiting and going black, a friend suggests that I should get an iPhone. Or a Blackberry, I suppose, in my case. The temptation hovers. GPS and Google maps (the biggest draw - not because I believe that they necessarily help people know where they are - rather I have a knack for getting lost sometimes and hate it), weather forecasts for planning daytrips, better quality photos, and that cool Shazam application that tells me the name of a song I hear so I can get it later...

A UCLA study posted on MSNBC reported that 25% of iPhone users surveyed think of the phone as an extension of themselves. My non-smartphone (dumbphone, shall we?) is definitely an extension of myself. I am constantly [sub]conscious of whether or not its ring is within my earshot, and we all know how a part of us feels like it’s missing when we accidentally lose our cell phones, leave them at home, drop them in the toilet, etc., well before smartphones came along. We are used to attaching ourselves to other things anyway, like keys and wallets. This is something I accept, especially because someone calling me is a particularly active mode of communication, as opposed to texting or instant messaging. When I am not calling or being called, my consciousness of it turns way down to the same level as say my keys when I go out. I put it away and forget about it til the next time I am using it for spoken communication.

I come home and open my laptop, which, despite my love-hate relationship with it - mostly for reasons to follow, I concede is easily one of the best $1000 investments I’ve made in recent memory. I immediately log on to my 3 e-mail accounts and Facebook (Facebook has become more of an obsession lately since my latest trip in Colombia). After assessing that there is nothing else for me to read or respond to, I fall under that spell that doesn’t let me get up from my computer even in my most idling stretches of time in front of it. That impulsive clicking and flicking from window to window, tab to tab, Facebook profile to photo album until I shake myself free or until the icon of a response to one of my wall posts appears. Everyone knows what I’m talking about. On this radio show, Dr. Dan Gottlieb talks about the impact of “interactive” media on attention and anxiety. I, and anyone else that’s had to write a paper in the last 15 years, can extensively relate. As text messages, e-mails, and Facebook posts become that much more accessible through a smartphone, the more I feel that my mental peace and focus is threatened. The last thing I need is the computer that follows me, or the phone that turns the knob of my consciousness of it much higher than a normal phone when I’m not using it.

There’s no doubt that I may feel more pressured in the future to get one as I compete with other people who have iPhones to say, respond faster to e-mails (at least, these days, try getting a gig on Craigslist without constantly stalking the website and your inbox). I may even willingly give in. On this round of new phone consideration (I still look nostalgically on the days of my now-discontinued slide-up Kyocera), I opt to resist. Dumbphone it is.