A week with a StupidPhone(TM)
by Gabriel Cross
Last week my smartphone had a stupid meltdown, and while it was in phone Nirvana being reborn (at least it was under warranty) I had to use a GoPhone(TM) to make and receive calls and texts. It is called a “GoPhone,” by the way, because it’s so easy, you just pick it up and Go back to the early 90s! I know, first world problems, right? But I live in the first world and this is the kind of problem I have.
I learned a lot in my week without a Smartphone, mostly that the past must have sucked even more than I remember, but also that it wasn’t so bad, actually. Before the iPhone came out, I was often wont to say, “Why can’t I have one thing that works as a phone, a PDA, a little computer, the whole package in one little device. I mean isn’t it the future already?” When the iPhone came out, I was wont to say, “Finally the future that my SciFi novels have been promising me has arrived.” But I have been living with a Smartphone for over four years now, and that instantaneous connection to everything all the time has taken its toll in certain ways.
For one thing, I have come to rely on my phone to do everything that it is capable of. Over the last seven days, I have done the following roughly 2,000 times: wondered what 975 times 52 is (or similar), grabbed my Stupidphone(TM), opened it up, and only then recalled that it doesn’t even have a (expletive deleted) calculator on it, because it is a stupid, stupid Stupidphone(TM).
I also own approximately zero music that I want to listen to anymore. I use Pandora radio, and it keeps track of my quixotic taste. But with my phone in Nirvana, I am forced to face the fact that I have not bought any new music since roughly the time when Napster lost its first court case. And I still like Elliott Smith, but damn if it isn’t depressing when he’s the only music you listen to. In college, when I was hosting a party and I wanted it to end, I would put on Elliott Smith’s “Either/Or,” and by the time he was singing “everybody’s gone at last” it would be true.
Most importantly, however, I have realized that it is very, very easy to be too connected. Now that I’m required to open up a laptop or turn on a computer and actually log in like a caveman, I have stopped checking my email every seven seconds and started checking it every 15 minutes. After realizing that nobody would die, I could go for a whole hour without checking it, and finally when I was out of the house on the weekend I realized that I could not check it for six hours and nothing would change. No alarms and no explosions.
I have been fooled into thinking that having the answer to every question imaginable, right here in my pocket, is a good thing. But all it really does is let my mind churn, spin, whirl and tromp, and pretend like it’s making progress. I have fooled myself into thinking that I’m smart because I can find the answer to any question, but in reality I’m wasting time finding answers I don’t need to questions that aren’t important. And how smart is that? I mean really, does it matter what Nathan Fillion did before playing Caleb in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” No. It doesn’t matter to anyone but Nathan Fillion, and maybe someone thinking of casting him.
My SmartPhone came back from HTC a few days ago, and I still haven’t moved the SIM chip back from the GoBackToThe90sPhone, because I’m beginning to wonder whether or not a constant interruption and disconnection device is really worth 30 bucks a month. I think I’ve spent more time the last week looking people in the eyes than I have the month prior. And how smart is it, really, to give up human connection for instant access to IMDb?