The other day I was doing work at a hip, super minimalist cafe located in an old warehouse that only provides agave syrup to sweeten your artisanal coffee, and I watched while the girl sitting next to me spent (no exaggeration) 10 minutes arranging her glass of coffee (coffee here is served in glasses, water in mason jars) and the 2 succulent plants on the table, and took about 45 pictures from about 20 different angles.
It took a very long time. She looked ridiculous. And her coffee must have been cold by the time she actually sat down to drink it.
Not that I am one to throw stones. As a reader of this blog you know I do shit like this all the time.
But watching this girl I thought, this has surpassed fun and morphed into something weird.
Last night, after MONTHS of talking about it, we finally decided to switch to a new carrier and get new phones (my phone has been in it’s death throes for almost a year).
Our new carrier does not subsidize the cost of the hardware of the phone. So we walked into the store and I started looking at the retail prices of new smartphones.
$600, $700, $800…
Hold up. Do I really need a $700 phone?
I found myself thinking about life before my smartphone. When I had to look up a recipe before I went into the store. When I couldn’t check my email unless I was at my computer, at my desk. When I had to wait more than 30 seconds to actually listen to a song that was stuck in my head.
But along with this convenience I’ve undoubtedly experienced a loss of basic skills, including (but not limited to) the ability to:
- Read a map/have any sense at all of where I am when I’m driving (a couple of months ago as I was driving to an office in Hawthorne for the 5th time in 14 days, Waze bailed on me…and I FREAKED, convinced I was about to accidentally turn down South Vermont because I had no idea that it was 5 miles away. Because I had no idea where I was. Because I hadn’t paid attention before. Because I hadn’t needed to.)
- Take longer than 3 seconds to try to figure something out.
- Remain calm when a public facility has horrible or no wireless or cell service.
- Wait in line.
- Relax and enjoy anything without fighting the urge to pull my phone out to take a picture.
I do really love that I can hail a car, find a recipe, or see what my friend in Shanghai ate for breakfast whenever the mood strikes. But it’s a tradeoff. Because I am pretty sure that net-net, my smartphone has made me dumber.
A flip phone is smaller and cheaper. And if HH accidentally dials my old boss again, I know for a fact that I can hang up (because even if the touch screen goes blank, I can always just close the phone) and not force both of us into an awkward conversation. I could stop feeling the compulsion to constantly check my emails, texts, Instagram, FB feed…it would allow me to break free from these Pavlovian reflexes and reconnect with the real world!
I got the Samsung Galaxy 5. Because podcasts.
Maybe I can hold off installing Instagram…
…at least for a week.