Dumb Phone Eulogy

I am one of the few people who’ve probably traded in their smart phone for a dumb phone. By dumb phone I mean a phone that pretty much just makes calls and texts. For over eight years now I’ve scorned the smart phone market because of the increasing negative effects I feel it has on people. The concept of being constantly connected always presents itself as a great thing but often leads to isolated interactions with people because they are busy checking their Facebook or Twitter feeds or playing some new game.

I had fallen into the pattern myself and felt that a smart phone was limiting me instead of helping me grow. So I gave it up

Inspiration

When driving several years ago I heard an interview on NPR about new book titled Hamlet’s Blackberry. The interview stirred a deep feeling that I could not understand at first but I purchased the book and read it in a day. The next day I walked to the phone store and handed over my iPhone and asked for a dumb phone. I then walked to the bookstore to purchase a Moleskin notebook and never looked back.

Some of you are reading this and thinking, “wow, what a great hipster story this has been” but that was never the intention. The book itself outlines some of the issues that are much worse today than they were eight years ago. Digital distraction hasn’t gone away but gotten much worse and the premise of the book is that throughout history technology has always changed things and people have always been able to forsee the negative but need to understand the positive. Sometimes the best way to do that is to take a step back.

The written language at one point had it’s sceptics because it would put an end to oral tradition or the steam engine would put an end to jobs. In the beginning extremes emerge and the skeptics feel validated. However, things always find a balance and sometimes that’s an inward journey rather than a global one.

The End of an Era

So my actions eight years ago where more of an inward facing problem that I was trying to deal with. I had separated myself from others by checking feeds and playing games and I didn’t trust myself. Lowering my cell phone bill felt nice and over the years the comments about my phone seemed to fade. I became comfortable with my dumb phone life and never really looked back.

Yet being in technology it has become harder and harder to not have a smart phone to do my job and today I will be going to purchase one. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing because I don’t want this to become a distraction once again in my life. So the question is how do I move foward?

Hope

I have changed a lot in my views in technology over the years and feel like I’ve finally come to an understanding with technology. Being a software developer you can be immersed in the new gadgets and tools. Technology has it’s ebbs and flows. But what I’ve found is if you approach each piece of technology as a tool in a toolbelt it looses some of its sparkle and you begin to ask questions about its functionality and purpose in your life.

An example would be how do you use your computer (or tablet)? Does it enhance your work and well being or does it hinder it? Is it a tool to help you in your life or a barrier between you and the people who surround you? I think this is the key difference.

If I take my new phone and begin to install games and apps that distract me from the ones I’m with I will have failed. Yet if I can use this tool to keep myself informed and to help me do my job and feel comfortable enough to put it aside to have a normal conversation with someone I think I will be okay.

So long dumb phone, you have taught me so much, I cannot thank you enough.

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Joel Holmes
Software Developer

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