Until a week ago, this was my phone.*
I’ve had this phone for five years, and it doesn’t connect to the internet, it doesn’t have email, it doesn’t do group texts and the photos it takes appear the size of a postage stamp before they become blurry. But back when I got this phone, before smart phones were everywhere, I liked it. It did everything I thought a phone needed to do; call and text.
Fast forward half a decade and smart phones are the norm. Call it invention being the mother of necessity, but it began to feel like not having a smart phone was actually having repercussions on my abilities to socialize and work. Someone would send me an email and I would get it four hours later when I was back at the office. If I was heading out to a meeting I quickly did a map search of the location so I could find my way there. My friends would make dinner plans by having a lengthy text battle in group message format to ascertain the where’s, the when’s and the who’s. My strategy for this one was to wait out blank message after blank message until the torrent subsided and I could ask one friend where we were meeting. It’s like everyone else was Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson, while I was still saying “Hey guys, what’s so wrong with the telegraph?”
So, after months (maybe years) of going month to month on my little Neon, I decided it was probably about time to update myself. I went to the (insert cell phone carrier name here) store in the mall. Why not buy online you say? Well, because it took me until 2014 to get a smart phone - do I seem like the kind of girl who can jump right to the online ordering and registering of my new technology?! Anyways, I went to the store. The salesman was friendly, although he did call his fellow salesmen over to look at my phone, like I was on an episode of Antiques Road Show. “Larry come over here, she has one of the old green neon LG’s. I haven’t seen one of these in ages!”
It is a great jump to go from the technology of five or so years ago, to today. The greatest leaps for me are the gps and the messaging. Every app that I download wants to know my location. If I’m buying shoes online, does the internet really need to know that I’m across town at a coffee shop and not in my apartment? However, getting places is much easier with a little voice from the passenger seat prompting “turn left in 900 feet.” I can check the news whenever I want, my calendar sends updates to my email – these are all new things for me! But as for candy crush … I just don’t get it.
I was not fighting the new phone for any sentimental reason or because I don’t like technology in general (to the contrary, everything else I have is pretty up to date), it just seemed silly to get rid of a phone that worked. The problem is that what works in 2009 may not work in 2014, simply because everyone has moved forward in their communication methods. The new technology becomes part of how we relate to each other. It is not only about being able to group message all my friends a photo of my cat at once. It’s about communicating in a timely manner. Years ago, someone sent you a letter and it travelled by mail to your door. Then you read it, wrote a reply and it travelled back to your friend or colleague. With email and laptops that exchange was collapsed into a few hours. Now, the expected return time on a message or email is much shorter, given that you can receive an email anywhere. I’m not saying that you have to respond to all communications right away, just that I’m happy I now have the option.
*I know that having any phone is a privilege that I am afforded because I live in a country with cell reception, I have a good job, and I can afford it. This post is not about having an expensive phone as a marker of status, it is about older cell phone technology vs. smart phones, and where that places you in a cell phone culture growing ever more accustomed to having a bazillion apps in your pocket at all times.