Are You Smarter than Your (Smart)phone?

As you read this I am on the ground in Belize preparing for a week of missions work. In my absence I asked some of my blogging friends to fill the void with guest posts. The first of these debuts today and comes from a friend I met through the Friday Fictioneers, a picture prompt that allows a misery 100 words to tell your story. For this post the count was not imposed, so I know you will enjoy Janet at her finest. 

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This is a slightly updated repost of one of my very first posts as a blogger almost two years ago.  My husband and I only a day or two away from becoming the latest Smartphone users, so it’s a timely reminder of habits I don’t want to fall into when I go to the dark side.  I’m sure you’ve seen the photos of families sitting down together…all on some sort of technology and not even looking at each other let alone carrying on a meaningful conversation.  That’s the type of behavior I wrote about in this piece.

Are You Smarter than Your (Smart)phone?

Smart phone. Or is it smartphone? Or Smartphone with a capital “S”, making it a proper name and raising its level of importance? I know that as a single word, it isn’t recognized by my spell check and dictionary, which most likely only means that they’re out-of-date and I should be getting either a new laptop, a new spell check/dictionary or both. Or I have the option of adding words that my spell check for some odd reason doesn’t know.

Let me digress here for a moment. Don’t you love the choices that might be given you when spell check doesn’t recognize your word? For instance, if I type “pierogi”, the red line appears underneath, warning me that I have some sort of spelling issue. My first four choices are “peerage”, “pirogue”, “paregoric” and “peerage”. Would you like a“peerage” filled with mashed potatoes, onions and cheese? Yum! I’ve had better ones that this, ones that make me break out in laughter but I can’t recall what they were, so back to the smart phone.

The smart phone is smart, in a passive/aggressive way. It doesn’t really do anything; it just sits there, on the table, doing and saying nothing, at least for the most part. But even if it doesn’t make a sound, it inserts itself much too often into conversations between friends, spouses or colleagues. Oh, I can hear it now…”I didn’t do a thing. I didn’t ask you to look at me, to put my at your right hand so you could check sports scores (like the current commercial—ditch that boyfriend, by the way), market prices, the menu for the restaurant you’re already sitting in, whatever. You made the choice. It’s not my fault.” And it it’s right. You’re the one who looked. But that phone is much like Banquo at the feast, just “there”, floating around, terrifying people. It wasn’t his fault he was a ghost.

More than once I’ve been tempted to either take someone’s smart phone and hurl it across the room or alternatively, step on it—hard! I’ve wanted to tell the person that we chose to spend this friend time together, so let’s not waste it. Is whatever you’re looking at more important than our time and conversation together? If so, perhaps we could reschedule for a time when you’re less busy and your phone is on vacation. What? It never takes a vacation. Hmmmm, maybe you both should spend a little time apart. (I don’t mention “spouse” here as well as friend because my spouse has a not-so-smart phone as well, except for his work phone. On the other hand, he does have a PlayStation…but I won’t go there now.)

The bottom line is, it’s rude. If you’re expecting an important phone call, fine. Let me know when we sit down, take it when it comes and then put the phone away, somewhere you can’t see it, where it can’t drag your gaze away. Show me that you really value our time together, not that I’m impinging on more important things.

Last year I read two excellent books that discuss the problems of people, technology and connectivity. The first was The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone)Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale, by Susan Maushart. I laughed out loud quite often (and not LOL, either, thank you) and she has an entire chapter on her iPhone (aka smart phones; a smart phone by any other name….).

The second, Hamlet’s BlackBerry, by William Powers, is also an excellent read. At one point, he fell into the water, losing his phone, and his consternation at not having a phone for several days was palpable at first. But gradually he came to a sense of freedom. I can identify with that. Every summer we go to the mountains, to a spot where, although we finally have sometimes sporadic and always slow internet, my not-so-smart phone can’t get a connection. To make a call, we have to hike or drive to the “phone booth”, a spot on a ridge overlooking what seems to be the entire eastern part of Wyoming, where we can get a signal. Do I dislike that? Are you kidding? The freedom is amazing. And to be able to do this each year is a great reminder of what’s important and a chance to break free of the web of technology that threatens at times to never let us be free.

This is what I’m talking about. In the first paragraph of a New York Times review of “Hamlet’s BlackBerry”, (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/18/books/review/Winer-t.html), reviewer Laurie Winer says:

“While reading ‘Hamlet’s BlackBerry,’ I sporadically paused to check my iPhone — whenever its ping signaled the arrival of a new e-mail message. I hated to turn away from William Powers’s elegant meditation on our obsessive connectivity and its effect on our brains and our very way of life. But I did anyway.”

I rest my case. Be smarter than your phone. And more considerate. Your friends will thank you!

Addendum…There are, of course, more devices than just smartphones that compete with humans for our attention: phones, tablets, e-readers, game consoles, TV’s.  I’ve seen ads for smart watches.  The list will only grow.  Determine now to be part of the Resistance and put humans first!

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Christian, wife, mom, homemaker, teacher (both at a Lutheran high school and 16 years of home schooling), personal trainer (16 years), family financial executive officer, sports enthusiast (participant and observer), writer, serious bibiliophile.  I love my family, reading, writing, horses, travel, mountains (and oceans and deserts…and desserts, too), sports (especially hockey), the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Green Bay Packers, the Tour de France, dark chocolate, cooking and eating, photography, history, pit bulls, wine, Guinness and quite a few other things.  Learning about blogs and thankful my husband knows all about computers!!

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About Joe Owens

Can you tell from my writing I love God? I hope so because that is what I want you to know most about me. I am also a writer who loves taking on fiction prompts and crafting a story. One day you will read my work in print. Until then enjoy it here! For free!
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One Response to Are You Smarter than Your (Smart)phone?

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