Why I Don’t Have a Smart Phone: Five True Stories

 

1. I was carpooling with some people on a six-hour trip (to Urbana), but before we could start, we had to get on the highway. Our GPS navigator took us right past the highway on-ramp we all knew, down some other road, then on a crazy four- or five-mile detour through other neighborhoods and odd side streets, finally coming full circle, back to the same on-ramp where we had started, which, this time, we took.

2.  For the next six hours, an extroverted older guy (maybe in his sixties) sat next to a younger guy (early twenties) and tried to make polite conversation. Even though they didn’t know each other previously, the older guy was friendly and full of energy, and it was clear that he really valued human interaction. The younger guy sometimes engaged, but his talking and even his listening eventually trailed off, as he lost interest in the conversation and paid more and more attention to reading whatever was on his phone. Perhaps unintentionally, the younger guy’s visible boredom sent the message loud and clear that he wasn’t interested in talking to the older guy. I ended up feeling bad for the older guy, and spending a lot of the trip engaging with him, even though we were sitting in different rows and had to crane some to make it work.

3.  A friend of mine, a psychologist, notices a trend: She has always had toys available in her waiting room, for any children who come. At the beginning of her career, it was a pretty reliable rule that children loved toys; now, some decades later, children seem less and less interested in the toys, or anything that requires manual dexterity to manipulate or use; the children may pick up a toy briefly, but they become frustrated or lose interest much more quickly, and revert to the one thing that still can hold their interest: a screen.

4. Research suggests that all this screen time may also make people that much less adept at relating to their fellow human beings:

Children’s social skills may be declining as they have less time for face-to-face interaction due to their increased use of digital media . . .

UCLA scientists found that sixth-graders who went five days without even glancing at a smartphone, television or other digital screen did substantially better at reading human emotions than sixth-graders from the same school who continued to spend hours each day looking at their electronic devices.

If you’re like me, you can immediately think of at least a half dozen people you know (mostly, though not only, male) who have enough trouble with basic human interaction as it is; the last thing they need is additional headwinds making it worse…

5.  I go on a date with a girl. She spends the whole time texting her friends.

This one needs no further elaboration because you’ve already heard it or lived it so many times yourself.

There are 37 comments.

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  1. Spin Inactive

    Ok, but…why don’t you have a smart phone? Or a cotten gin? Or an automobile? Or electric lights?

    • #1
    • January 13, 2019, at 1:39 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Flicker Inactive

    I don’t have one either, and object to the suggestion that Apple is designing a smart flip-phone. I can’t help when standing in line at the supermarket, bank or service company, counting the number of people on their smart phones and dividing by the number of people in line. the figure is always more than 75%. How do make civil neighborly conversation with someone who is so clearly otherwise occupied?

    • #2
    • January 13, 2019, at 1:42 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Same here. When we go out to a restaurant for dinner, I play a game with myself, counting the number of screens on each table visible to me. The majority of people have one. What upsets me the most is seeing people who are obviously on a date, with each of them paying more attention to their phones than their dinner companion. That says “rude” to me.

    One more big reason I don’t have a smartphone is that I know that your entire life is on that device, since it can access the internet and all of your personal files and information. I’m horrified at the prospect of losing my entire life in one fell swoop if it gets lost or stolen. Another Ricochet member published a post a while back, detailing his travails when his phone was hacked and all his files stolen, and it was just awful. I’ll stick with my old-fashioned flip phone that remains mostly off, at the bottom of my handbag.

    • #3
    • January 13, 2019, at 1:55 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  4. Randy Webster Member

    Unwoke Caveman Lawyer: I go on a date with a girl. She spends the whole time texting her friends.

    I’d complain if my wife of 40 years spent all of her time on a date texting her friends.

    • #4
    • January 13, 2019, at 2:47 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  5. She Thatcher
    She

    I do have a smartphone. I’m pretty careful about what I do with it. I was a very late adopter of the technology, finally succumbing because of a couple of rather vulnerable people in my family, one whose safety I was concerned about if [said person] needed help/directions in an emergency and the other whose iPhone functions as something of a GPS is [said person] gets lost. I check my email, I do basic web browsing, I have a few apps (Slack, for Ricochet communication is one of them), and that’s it. I’m adamant about backing it up, and I know how to “wipe” it if I lose it. I do nothing on the cloud. My devices are not synchronized across cyberspace, nor do I want them to be. I don’t do Twitter or Facebook, because, frankly, one’s a sewer and the other’s a freak show, and I refuse to be a part of them. I’m very careful about what information I put into websites, (and computers in general) and what sort of connection I’m using. I haven’t forgotten how to go to the bank or write a check.

    The rude people you describe are confusing what happens online with reality, or they have decided that what happens online is more interesting, important, or exciting than reality and what’s actually going on in their lives. (Unfortunately, that’s probably true for some of them). As with so many things, the problem isn’t with the technology, its with the people, and until some serious attitude adjustment takes place (it would probably take a new generation of parents raising its children to think differently about social media for that to occur) , it’s not going to change.

    We have a saying around at Chez She when we’re faced with a technology challenge of one sort or another: “Who’s in charge? You or the computer?”  Unfortunately, many people (not only young people, I can attest) have ceded authority in their lives to their “devices” and live in thrall to them. It’s sad.

    • #5
    • January 13, 2019, at 3:44 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  6. Spin Inactive

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    When we go out to a restaurant for dinner, I play a game with myself, counting the number of screens on each table visible to me.

    We went to Taco Time for late lunch today. The Saint’s game was on. So I watched it…

    • #6
    • January 13, 2019, at 5:02 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Spin Inactive

    She (View Comment):
    or they have decided that what happens online is more interesting, important, or exciting than reality and what’s actually going on in their lives.

    As I said…the Saint’s game was on…

    • #7
    • January 13, 2019, at 5:06 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    I don’t have a smart phone either. I’m very happy with my old flip phone, and nobody can track me or eavesdrop on me.

    I really like your Ricochet handle, UCL. It fits me, too, though I think of myself more as a dinosaur than a caveman. :)

    • #8
    • January 13, 2019, at 5:32 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Front Seat Cat Member

    One through five speak volumes on their own and collectively. There is a link and it’s obvious. This is a very good observation. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been in restaurants and families or dates or even girlfriends have been gathered at one table but no talking just phone staring and texting.

    We were at a nice restaurant one evening when assorted young people really decked out – in tuxes and beautiful gowns started coming in – obviously prom or something – a cute couple sat down and the girl just spent the evening texting – completely humiliating for her young date. I wanted to say something. Anyone that does that on a date should be taken home.

    The bigger story of young kids not playing with toys or the boy that couldn’t hold a conversation is disturbing- there’s a lack of manners for one – but so much more.

    • #9
    • January 13, 2019, at 6:31 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  10. OldPhil Coolidge

    It’s amazing to watch a hockey, baseball, or basketball game on TV, and as the camera scans the first few rows of the crowd, EVERYONE is staring at their phones. These people paid hundreds of dollars (or more) for those seats, and they can’t bear to watch the game.

    • #10
    • January 13, 2019, at 6:46 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  11. Randy Webster Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Unwoke Caveman Lawyer: I go on a date with a girl. She spends the whole time texting her friends.

    I’d complain if my wife of 40 years spent all of her time on a date texting her friends.

    If her date was with me, I mean.

    • #11
    • January 13, 2019, at 7:37 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Unwoke Caveman Lawyer Coolidge
    Unwoke Caveman Lawyer Post author

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):
    I really like your Ricochet handle, UCL. It fits me, too, though I think of myself more as a dinosaur than a caveman. :)

    Well, you’re very kind.

    Perhaps you have a surprise career in politics ahead of you!

    • #12
    • January 13, 2019, at 7:52 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. James Lileks Contributor

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    One more big reason I don’t have a smartphone is that I know that your entire life is on that device, since it can access the internet and all of your personal files and information. I’m horrified at the prospect of losing my entire life in one fell swoop if it gets lost or stolen.

    This is a problem that seems to hit the fringes of the installed base of users: the young people are used to everything being up there and out there, and don’t back up; the older cohort doesn’t back up because it’s not something they’re accustomed to doing by instinct or necessity. I’m constantly backing up my daughter’s life and my wife’s photos, and making redundant copies in various media and locations.

     

    • #13
    • January 13, 2019, at 11:07 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. James Lileks Contributor

    Thanks to my smartphone, today I . . .

    Heard a ping! sound that indicated an incoming message from Daughter in Brazil, and watched an amazing 30 second video of her riding a dune buggy on a beach

    Was able to text her at the hotel, get a location, call up the site on my phone and see where she was

    Show it to my wife, who sent her a voice text that popped up in 17 seconds in Brazil

    While watching the football game at my friend’s house, we noted how the aerial shot of the stadium seemed to indicate there wasn’t any parking; called up the site on my phone, accessed a satellite view, saw all the parking lots; settled that

    Settled a bet about a song in a movie

    Got a text from an old friend about having lunch for a future project, set up the date by talking to my wrist, then spoke a request to add it to my calendar; my watch connected to my phone, entering it in my calendar, which synced with al my devices

    Set an alarm via verbal command to tell me when I should leave the football game to go home for the dinner my wife wanted to have at 6:30; watch tapped me on the wrist when it was item to go

    Took a really nice picture of my dog

    While walking the dog, I had a hankering for a particular song, and was able to tap my earpiece and request it

    Took some hi-res photos of some ephemera for my website, which automatically transfered to my computer

    And so on. What I did not do with the phone: Make a phone call

    • #14
    • January 13, 2019, at 11:21 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  15. Flicker Inactive

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    And so on. What did not do with the phone: Make a phone call

    Are you normal, or are you The Most Interesting Man in the World. I think the latter, my friend.

    • #15
    • January 14, 2019, at 12:15 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Tex929rr Coolidge

    I think the causal relationship is misidentified here. The smart phone doesn’t cause the boorish behavior. (The relationships between small kids and smart phones/tablets is a wholly different issue).

    You can’t imagine how much we use smart devices in emergency services. The other day we were paged for a brush fire – we get paged via a radio system and a digital app at the same time. The app displays everything the dispatcher has typed about the call, the address, and a map. I can get directions and see who is responding and watch their location in real time. Over the years we store all the information we have about every address. I was able to call the next door neighbor from the fire (info was stored after a previous call) to get the landowner’s phone number so I could notify them about the fire (a good half mile from their house).

    We bought Kindles when they were brand new for a long overseas trip, so we wouldn’t have to pack books. I now read almost everything on the Kindle app on my phone.

    The devices are modern miracles. That some people misuse them (or just use them in ways we might not like) is not the fault of the device.

    Edit: when I say we store info, it’s in a database and displays on the map. Any emergency responder can access it. A tap on the icon beings up details. On this map green flags are helicopter landing zones, orange keys are gate codes and or when hydrants are water storage tanks.

    • #16
    • January 14, 2019, at 3:01 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. E. Kent Golding Member

    I like my Apple Smartphone. I use it for Phone Calls, Texting, checking to see business hours. Pandora is nice, the mapping features are nice, and I shazammed a song recently. I look at Apple News occasionally, and have noticed the heavy left wing bias. I suspect people who look at Apple News tend to slowly have their political opinions & voting habits shifted leftward. Not sure exactly what we can do about this.

    • #17
    • January 14, 2019, at 3:40 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Steven Seward Member

    I’ve never understood the appeal of a smart phone. There is so much more that you can do on a home computer that there is no comparison. Besides, I can’t stand typing on those micro keyboards with my little finger and I have trouble seeing the tiny text.. What a pain, when I’ve got that nice big keyboard and screen at home!

    • #18
    • January 14, 2019, at 5:11 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. Spin Inactive

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    set up the date by talking to my wrist

    Gag me: you are one of THOSE people!

    • #19
    • January 14, 2019, at 6:24 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Spin Inactive

    Steven Seward (View Comment):
    There is so much more that you can do on a home computer that there is no comparison.

    There isn’t a comparison: they are two different devices for two different purposes.

    I could probably fill a book with things you can do with a smart phone that you can’t do with your home computer. But here is one: I can download hi-resolution topographic maps to my phone, for custom areas, when I go hiking. Often I get no cell signal on the trail, though obviously it still can use GPS. So I have a tool in my pocket that will help me track my position, distance, etc. You can’t do that with your home computer.

     

    • #20
    • January 14, 2019, at 6:29 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. JustmeinAZ Member

    I always say I don’t have a cell phone (or smart phone) but technically that is not true. I own one but never, ever carry it with me – 95% of the time I don’t even know where it is. It is only for when we travel. I take a tablet with me for email (a $99 Kindle Fire not an iPad) but use the phone when wifi is not available. 

    Speaking of being rude by staring at the screen when you are out with others, if my husband is on the phone (landline of course) and he is speaking with someone who asks him to wait while they answer call waiting he will hang up on them.

    • #21
    • January 14, 2019, at 7:48 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Scott Abel Member

    All this technology is definitely making us antisocial.

    • #22
    • January 14, 2019, at 8:04 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  23. Roderic Fabian Reagan

    A story, probably apocryphal, from Brazil:

    A teacher told her class of children to write an essay telling people what they’d like to be and why.

    One little boy wrote that he wanted to be an iPhone, “because my parents never want to talk to me or do anything with me. They only want to look at their iPhones. If I were an iPhone they’d pay some attention to me.”

    I thought the ultimate was the family of 4 at a restaurant all texting other people on their smartphones. But no, the ultimate was the 2 teenagers standing right next to each other texting each other.

    • #23
    • January 14, 2019, at 8:06 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Spin Inactive

    Roderic Fabian (View Comment):
    But no, the ultimate was the 2 teenagers standing right next to each other texting each other.

    That’s so you don’t know what they are saying…

    • #24
    • January 14, 2019, at 8:28 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Shabbos helps. 25 hours each week with no electronics.

    • #25
    • January 14, 2019, at 8:40 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Aaron Miller Member

    1) Electronic maps are generally superior to paper maps. If there’s a passenger in the vehicle, there’s a flesh-and-blood navigator. Ignore Google’s directions and pick your own route.

    2) Before there were electronics, there were young people who didn’t share interests of older people… and generally people who didn’t share the interests of certain other people. Might you have been ascribing to the young man’s smartphone what was simply disinterest in the older man’s topics or manner? Even a friendly person can be a bore or nuisance if personalities don’t mesh.

    3) My nephews are allowed just 30 minutes of “electronics time” (smartphone, video games) per day, so they play with toys (or soccer balls, books, etc) more. It is good to moderate time watching videos or playing video games. But it’s understandable when kids prefer video games to toys if afforded the option. Video games are interactive. Toys are passive. Both require intellectual engagement and challenge kids to grow.

    4) “Research suggests…” anything and everything. Most of it is wishful.

    5) Your date sucked. But many is the time I have been to a restaurant without electronics and still had little to say. Again, you might be mistakenly ascribing the problem to the phone.

    Anything engaging can be addictive. People need self-examination, self-discipline, and consideration of others; not an absence of electronics.

    Ever been to a small town? The residents are often bored. They don’t have much to talk about beyond the same old same old. Encyclopedias at our fingertips, instant global communication, thrilling free and timely new experiences — smartphones can inspire many discussions and deep social interactions. We just have to willfully prefer people to things and ideas… even when people are idiots, jerks, and bores.

    • #26
    • January 14, 2019, at 9:05 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. James Lileks Contributor

    Spin (View Comment):

    Spin
     

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    set up the date by talking to my wrist

    Gag me: you are one of THOSE people!

    I am! It’s easier than getting the phone out of my pocket. The device also tells the time, which is handy. When I got a phone I stopped wearing a watch, like a lot of people, and we all became 19th-century types who carried their phone in a pocket on their vest, which seemed a step backwards. 

    • #27
    • January 14, 2019, at 9:16 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. Joshua Bissey Coolidge

    Unwoke Caveman Lawyer: 2.  For the next six hours, an extroverted older guy (maybe in his sixties) sat next to a younger guy (early twenties) and tried to make polite conversation. Even though they didn’t know each other previously, the older guy was friendly and full of energy, and it was clear that he really valued human interaction. The younger guy sometimes engaged, but his talking and even his listening eventually trailed off, as he lost interest in the conversation and paid more and more attention to reading whatever was on his phone. Perhaps unintentionally, the younger guy’s visible boredom sent the message loud and clear that he wasn’t interested in talking to the older guy. I ended up feeling bad for the older guy, and spending a lot of the trip engaging with him, even though we were sitting in different rows and had to crane some to make it work.

    There have always been people that want to talk, and people that don’t want to talk so much.

    I have been that younger guy well before the age of the smart phone, but I was trying to read a book. The world is full of people who think that, just because you’re in the same room with them, you’re obligated to listen to all their chit-chat. And it’s full of people just wishing that first type would go talk to someone else.

    You feel bad for the chatterbox? I feel bad for the guy who wants to be left alone.

    • #28
    • January 14, 2019, at 9:27 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  29. Tex929rr Coolidge

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    I am! It’s easier than getting the phone out of my pocket. The device also tells the time, which is handy. When I got a phone I stopped wearing a watch, like a lot of people, and we all became 19th-century types who carried their phone in a pocket on their vest, which seemed a step backwards.

    When we send millennial firefighters to EMT school many of them end up buying their first wristwatch. It’s not impoosible to time vital signs using your phone, but it’s quite difficult. 

    • #29
    • January 14, 2019, at 9:46 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. EB Thatcher
    EB

    I agree with a lot of the general thrust of your post, although I do use my smartphone in many ways that make my life much simpler.

    However, regarding example #2, maybe the talker should have been a little more considerate of his seat mate. Maybe the younger guy needed some peace and quiet. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to engage with ANYONE for six straight hours. 

    • #30
    • January 14, 2019, at 9:46 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
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