12 and Counting
March 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Believe it or not, I have been without a phone for 12 days* now. I won’t tell you the sordid technicalities of how my beautiful iPhone got taken from me, but it definitely involved some violent Scorsese-like details. To some of you, being phone-less for this long is utterly unfathomable. I might have as well said something along the lines of, I have been without food for 12 days… or I have been without sleep for 12 days… or I have been without any form of human interaction for 12 days. And more or less, I agree.
Since my parents gave me my first cell phone, sometime towards the end of high school, I’ve never been without my technology accessory / necessity for more than a few days. This includes the time in college when the top half of my flip phone conveniently broke off and I was blindly dialing people in my phone book for three weeks. There was a tiny red dot on the bottom half of the phone that would flash when someone was calling and that was enough for me. So yes, being without a phone for this long has been very interesting, frustrating, and overall entirely eye opening experiences. Just like fasting for a few days will teach you a few things about yourself, being without a phone will as well.
1. It’s okay to be disconnected.
When I’m out at a restaurant and I happen to see a family with kids next to me, I usually feel terrible for the parents because 8 times out of 10 (my arbitrary statistic), the kids aren’t talking or engaging, but playing on their phones. But then again, who can blame them? Back in my day (technology changes so fast that I feel entirely appropriate using that adage), the only thing I could do with my phone was call and text. Texting was even a little time consuming because there was no fancy T9 predictive magic, you simply had to hit numbers, and then wait if you had to hit the same number again to get another letter. Sometime in college, I did upgrade to a phone that took fuzzy terrible pictures, but even then, I don’t think I could do anything with those pictures – the phones that sent fancy MMS messages were out of my budget. But now, everything is possible on the phone and the world is moving ever towards being entirely mobile. Whether it’s instantaneous texting, flipping through Facebook photos, playing Fruit Ninja, or listening to music, the phone has become a one object wonder of instantaneous gratification. I’m not sure boredom can exist in our modern era because you always have access to some kind of distraction or entertainment from your mobile.
At the same time, though, I wonder if this access to information, entertainment, and people has taken away from the simplicity of just enjoying the present situation. I honestly don’t remember the last time I went out with a group of friends and someone didn’t have their phone on the table. Whether it was answering a text message, ignoring a call, or simply checking the news – I’ve never been to a dinner where everyone present was fully engaged with everyone else. This “keep your phone on the table” has become so much of a social norm now that no one really minds, and sure, most dinner companions have the common courtesy to not be so involved with their phones when we’re dining, but I wonder why everyone has become so unable to disconnect from everything else but the present for even a few hours.
Being without a phone, you are forced to disconnect. No one is texting you, no one is reaching out to you – that tiny fact you want to verify on Wikipedia must nag on your mind for just a little bit longer. But it’s okay to practice the discipline of being disconnected. Being disconnected forces you to be present. It reminds you of what it’s like to just enjoy and engage with the people and the environment around you.
Why are we the kind of people who can only learn moderation through – being completely without?
2. Access to Technology: The haves and the have nots.
It’s never struck me more acutely that access to technology is the most tangibly dichotomizing thing in the world right now. Ten years ago, it might have been going to the right school, or being born on the right street, or learning to play the right sports, but these days it’s singularly about having access to technology and how that will allow you to learn about and engage with the changing world.
So I must confess that I actually lost my iPhone 4 a few months ago and have been using my friend Anya’s old iPhone 3. Though it was incredibly generous of her to lend me her phone (the one that was recently stolen), it was quite a shock getting reacquainted with the old dinosaur after I had been with the sexy younger model. Part of this meant I had to stop using a lot of the apps I used because the phone just couldn’t handle all the action. Every photo I wanted to upload onto Path and Instagram would shut my phone down to the home screen and Maps was so slow to upload that I just gave up after a while. The gradual death of my friend’s iPhone 3 led to my dwindling access to technology – and thus, becoming slowly less and less tech savvy. Pretty soon, all my friends were talking about some new app I couldn’t down load, people were connecting over shared moments Path-ed, and I was just missing out on all the action.
Not having access to sexy summer camps or fancy foreign vacations may limit the type of people you can impress or the crowd you can ultimately belong to, but not having access to technology will make it impossible to understand where the world is going or the language that drives conversation today. Now a days, the hottest trend in marketing is content marketing. All big companies and brands are looking to hire individuals who can build content around their strategies to engage their consumer communities better. With the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., marketing a brand now means engaging with your consumers. No longer is it enough to sell a product, but now you must sell your persona. So individuals who understand how these technologies have changed the marketing industry will succeed and excel. Individuals who don’t, simply won’t.
Across all industry – technology will come and creatively destroy what was old and implement a whole new system. Those who can understand the lingo, those that can walk the walk and talk the talk will be those that will have access to the opportunities of the future.
My friend Allie Perry teaches kindergarden at Eanes School District, home of the affluent high school Westlake. This past year, the school district had loaned all their teachers their own personal iPads to use. The purpose of this program is to encourage teachers to research ways on how to use technology to engage their students. By second grade, children in the Eanes School District will be using their own iPads in the classroom to create “stories” and share them with their school mates. Fast forward a few years and what you ultimately have are people who will likely be far ahead of those that didn’t get to interact with technology in such a way.
So I’m not sure where this realization of the importance of technology leads me – but at least it gives me a compelling argument to spend a few hundred dollars and buy that new phone.
*This is not entirely true. There was a minor blip of connectivity I had in the middle of my 12 day alienation from the mobile world. My good friend Anton did lend his outdated but super sexy Motorola KRZR K1 to use until I realized I couldn’t charge it because I didn’t have an adapter. This sexy euro phone was too much for my American outlets.