Note: I refer to the entire category of iPhones / Blackberrys / whatever is popular at this given hour under the lump name "information phones." It's a phrase I try, and mostly fail, to utter without sounding terrified and/or disgusted.
I'm sure it's a tic found super-charming by everyone around me carrying the newest iPhone or who is willing to sleep outside for the newest iPhone or who recently paid $900 for the newest iPhone on eBay. After all, it's the new cool thing, right? Your email, brought to you even faster! Ugh. The thing is, that's the last thing I want. In fact, I never want a "smart phone."
Recently I was hanging out with a techie friend -- who calls me a Luddite on a regular basis -- and his friends. It was a typical Sunday a few weeks back -- World Cup-watching with beer, off to another bar's sunny courtyard, then to the backyard of a fake tiki hut, and finally to a nice dinner around 9:30. About eight hours of straight drinking (sorry, Mom), and as far as I could tell, nary 15 minutes managed to pass without one of these adults looking up something on her phone, showing a video to someone else on her phone, or checking her email on her phone.
I used my crappy little phone once -- to answer a call (a call!) from my roommate inquiring whether I was home and, if so, could I help her carry her new air conditioner up our stoop. Sometime during that five-minute talk I overheard a guy across the table say, "Look, she's having a real conversation, like, on the phone!"
It was a good-natured comment implying "Isn't that quaint?"
Later at dinner, after about 57 drinks, I responded with terrible rudeness to the person who had uttered it. The group had shrunk to just four of us, and while we waited for our first course, this guy went to check yet another thing -- goodness knows what -- on his iPhone. I happen to hate phones at meal time, although admittedly my alcohol-seasoned brain had no business interfering with whatever he was doing.
Nonetheless, my drunk, hungry and apparently mannerless self reasoned that if he was getting important emails on a Sunday night he didn't really have to answer them right then, and it was probably a terrible idea anyway, seeing as we'd all been drinking since two in the afternoon. When he put his phone back down on the dinner table, I reached across and casually flipped it over. Then I waited for the fallout. Instead, this friend-of-a-friend glanced at his prone iPhone, didn't turn it back to screen-side up, and announced to no one in particular that he loved me. Tally: Me 1, Technorati, 0.
And then there's the smart phone paradox: A friend of mine only half-jokes that our most marginally employed friends (we have a lot) all use iPhones. Of our good friends who are fully employed -- a much smaller group -- most seem to be clinging to their Samsung relics. For the actually employed, I wonder if, because they're more than familiar with what it's like to have email dinging at them all day long, they don't want to receive more outside of their requisite 40-, 50- or 60-hour workweek. Plus, hey, they have jobs. Unlike the freelance gang, they're not going to miss out on a possible gig if they don't read emails while nursing their third or fourth beer-and-a-shot recession special.
That starts to get at how I feel. I guess I'm an outlier, hanging on to my very limited cell phone while being employed on a freelance basis that often looks -- to an outsider -- a lot like total unemployment. Right now it seems that no amount of email at the dinner table is going to change that fact. Why bother upgrading gadgets?
Besides, between fretting about further wearing down my already pathetic attention span with a phone that does too much, and preferring to choose to check email -- as opposed to having it buzz at me as it trickles in -- I remain an enthusiastic Luddite. I like
coming home to a nice new section of fresh messages at the top of my inbox, though that sometimes throws me into an overwhelmed panic. Nonetheless, I calm down by remembering that if somebody died, A) I probably wouldn't hear about it over email, and B) if I check that email an hour after it arrives, she'll still be dead.
Of course, the first time I ever miss out on real work because I was late to my email, I'm sure I'll go storming off to the Apple store. For as long as it's reasonably possible, though, I can ask other people to download interesting applications to look at on their iPhones (as long as they're free, of course). I don't have a problem asking for directions from other human beings. I like forgetting YouTube exists. And mostly, I can still focus, at least as well as I was ever able to in the first place. Email now, writing later, and when eating dinner, all I'm doing is eating dinner. And talking to people's faces.
Susannah Edelbaum just learned to master her toaster. She's also reviewed gallery shows for Art Cat and fun fashion stuff for Gen Art Pulse.