Up until a few days ago, my cell phone was a regular phone with a flip top that made calls and carried text messages. Sometimes, I'd use it to take a picture. I didn't know from data plans. Then, my phone died. Kaput. That's it. Couldn't even retrieve my contacts, so I went to get a new phone, and I learned that for ten dollars each month I could get service to a phone that would let me onto Facebook. "Why would I want to look at Facebook with my phone?" I asked the nice sales lady. "I don't know," she said, "Sometimes I like to check out pictures of my friends."
I scoffed and got a regular phone, no data plan. But what the phone has is a keyboard, and the keyboard makes me feel like I think my daughter feels when she writes in one of my old date books. Which is to say it makes me feel grown up. And it makes me want to do things, like send emails, which I think are longer than text messages, and read newspaper articles. In other words, the keyboard has shown me how it is that people use their phones like computers and now, even though I've been terribly prideful about having such a low tech phone, I kind of want a smart one.
A while back I read a post about smart phones, the ipad and using technology in general over at Kate Harding's blog. I took it as a cautionary tale of pocket interactive devices. Harding, who was writing about interactivity exhaustion, used a trip to Canada, which forced her to turn off everything on her phone except the part that makes calls, to illustrate the depth of her relationship with the smart part of her phone. A quote:
Crossing the border meant the roaming charges were obscene, so we both turned off everything but the phone parts of our phones. Which meant that for 8 days, we couldn’t e-mail, update Twitter or Facebook, end an argument by looking something up on Wikipedia, or read random internet shit unless we were actually in our hotel room with our computers. Now, everyone who witnessed the Sandra Bullock shitstorm knows I was online plenty last week — but I was also offline a LOT more than usual. Because these days, I am used to being online whenever I’m on public transit, when I’m out for dinner (yes, I’m that rude asshole, at least when I’m with my rude asshole husband), when I’m waiting for a movie to start or a friend to show up, etc. So when I realized I’d been out for hours and had no idea what was going on in comments on the Bullock post, for instance, I’d have a moment of panicky frustration before I remembered oh yeah, IT WILL STILL BE THERE WHEN I GET HOME.
I read that and felt like this whole time that I've been without a smart phone or iTouch, I've dodged a huge bullet, a bullet that would tear my time to itsy bitsy little pieces, that would connect me too much with what I might be reading online and leave me too far from what I should be looking at from the bench where I'm sitting. And yet, that keyboard on the new phone, oh, it makes me want to take all that time I have on the bench at playground and sink it right into the screen of my phone. Only the phone I got, it's not so smart, so I won't. For now.