On Keeping My Dumb Phone

My spouse decided this week to take advantage of a work discount program and get a smartphone, and I don’t like it.

My phone has an animation of an aquarium. What does your phone have?
My phone has an animation of an aquarium. What does your phone have?

I have the Sanyo Katana flip phone I got for free in 2006. I know how to use it, and I know how to forget about it in my purse so that whenever I need it it’s gone dead and I have to plug it into the car charger in order to use it. And this is on a phone that holds a charge for a week. If I had a smartphone, I’d have to devote an entire to-do-list line item to remembering to recharge it.

In addition, smartphones…

Promote antisocial tendencies.

I’m not even talking about the way everyone’s face is stuck in a screen every moment their eyes aren’t actively engaged in seeing something else. I’m talking about how no one’s allowed to just have a conversation anymore. When someone says, “Who’s the guy who did the painting of the apple in front of the guy’s face?” there’s no more, “Oh, isn’t that Miró? A friend sent me a postcard with that painting on it one time, and she was really into Miró at the time.” There’s no more, “No, I think it’s Manet. I watched a t.v. documentary about him back in the late 90’s.”

There’s no more of that kind of exchange because someone’s always got a smartphone to fact-check. I have nothing against facts, but really, the point isn’t who the heck painted the picture of the apple-face guy (Magritte, for those of you without smartphones), it’s the discussion, the human connection that’s destroyed by a hand-held smart(ass)phone.

Discourage research and forward-planning.

Now that everyone can just e-mail or text each other all the time and look up restaurants on the fly, people just head out with only the barest skeleton of a plan. Chaos and anarchy just don’t work for me. I want to know where we’re going and when we plan to get there, and I want a half-dozen paper maps to consult if plans go awry.

But on the flip side, smart phones also…

Discourage independent discovery.

My spouse was making a beer run this weekend in an unfamiliar town in Maine, so he borrowed our friend’s smartphone to find the beer store our friend had looked up. Turns out he didn’t need the phone because there’s a little beer store right on the main road on the way to the other beer place, which he’d have figured out even without the phone.

But even if smartphones weren’t evil, I wouldn’t want one because I have no willpower. I have lots of willpower in other areas of my life. I can rock an elimination diet like nobody’s business, but I can’t help but check my e-mail during every remotely spare moment I have and jump down every rabbit hole I encounter along the way. And this is just with my laptop. If I had a smartphone, I would spend my entire life in Alice in Wonderland. Within two weeks, I’d be sitting on a giant mushroom smoking a hookah and giving passersby tangential Wikipedia-inspired responses to their direct questions.

And where would that leave my children?

Wherever it is, I know they’ll end up there eventually because it’s clear to me that smartphones are as inevitable as they are evil. Chances are, my face will be bathed in the bluish glow of a tiny screen by next summer. Until then, I’ll just keep complaining.

Written as part of the yeah write weekly challenge.

39 thoughts on “On Keeping My Dumb Phone

  1. I was late to get a cell phone at all (2005). Then, in 2011, after losing my phone on an airplane, my wife convinced me to go the smartphone route. I was perfectly fine without one, but now that I have one…I probably couldn’t do without. So hold out as long as you can, because there’s no going back!


    1. That’s how I feel about having internet at home, too. We actually kept our free dial-up until 2008. I keep wanting to get rid of internet at home entirely and just use the computers at the library, but I don’t think I can go back without completely rearranging how I do things.


  2. All of this is painfully true . . . and I am an addict. They say the first step is admitting it, right? But no, I don’t want rehab. I am far too deep into the rabbit hole, thanks. I am also a planner, but this past weekend, we were in NYC and needed to figure out where an apple store was for my hubs to get a new charger (that became evil while we were there), and having a smart phone was key. Plus, figuring out where we wanted to eat dinner while we were on the train to the city was made much easier with my phone and some instant research. They are not all bad. But avoid it as long as you can. Life is so much simpler without it. I think I remember what my children look like. Oh wait, let me go to the photos on my phone. Ah, there they are!! 😉


    1. The cost was always my spouse’s main argument against getting a smartphone, but with this program at work, it would actually cost us less for him to have a smartphone than it does for us both to have our regular old phones…at least as long as he’s at this particular company, that is.


    1. Ugh! Yes, I do not want my children to become addicted to the same technology I find myself addicted to. It’s probably a silly concern, but I’m with you…it just seems wrong.


  3. I just recently purchased a smartphone after spending 2 years with no cell phone at all. I can attest, I have learned that even a pee break is long enough for a thorough email scan if you put your mind to it.

    Great post!


    1. There are definitely situations in which smartphones just make sense. My spouse’s cousins are deaf, and they find that smartphones make things much easier (of course, a regular old cell phone would have limited utility for them). I understand that in other countries, people use smartphones to pay for things at vending machines and to pay fares on public transit. If the United States ever gets to that point (or if I move out of the country), I guess I’ll have to make the switch.


      1. Yeah I’ve seen people pay for things with their phones, it still seems kind of sci-fi to me! I rarely use my phone as a phone anymore, to be honest, but living in a foreign country, the maps and dictionary apps are lifesavers!


  4. I will be finally caving in and getting one next summer too. I guess we can both join the dark side at the same time. I will at least feel a little bit less like a leper when I pull my smartphone out as opposed to how I feel now using my ancient phone!


    1. I’m getting to the point where my old phone is a point of pride for me…much like the 50-year-old blue toilet in our master bath was. I worked so hard to not have to replace that thing (although I do quite like our new commode. It has a feature called “Power Flush”).


  5. Great writing! You made your point well…although I don’t agree with you on the evil of smart phones.

    On the subject of antisocial tendencies, I remember how my family would get together at yearly parties (now, bear in mind, this is before the age of any type of portable phones) and after an hour or so everyone would be sitting somewhere with their noses in a book. There’s more than one way to disconnect from people…smart phones are just a convenient excuse.

    I loved this post and look forward to reading more!


    1. I don’t know, I think going off and reading is less antisocial than if they acted like they were talking to each other but were really looking at their phones every three minutes. I agree, though; smartphones are just one of many avenues through which antisocial tendencies can manifest themselves.


  6. This is the best post ever. I like you, and your dumb phone.

    BTW, mine is very similar to yours. It keeps turning itself off and exhibiting other signs of age and declining mobile health, but I refuse to upgrade!


    1. My phone is actually doing pretty well when I remember to charge it. I hate having a cell phone at all, and it’s possible I’m just trying to avoid getting something I’ll actually use.


  7. My sister updated my phone as a “favor”to me… I haven’t been able to have a conversation in four weeks…the damn thing keeps disconnecting…not so smart after all… my last phone was also a flip phone but I loved it… granted you could flip it open and it had a rotary dial… HA… no really I miss it!


    1. I think that’s another thing I’m avoiding: That feeling of being totally illiterate with a new technology. Luckily, my the rollout of the smartphone program at my spouse’s work has been put on hold, so we’re off the hook (so to speak) for a little while still.


  8. I’d say you sound like my grandfather, but he has a smartphone. 😉 Embrace it. You’ll love it. (No, this isn’t the devil talking, lol). And at the end of the day, people are people despite the technology they have. They can choose to use it for good or they can choose to use it for evil. I like that even in a foreign country (at least with an Android) I can still use the GPS capabilities of my map to know where I am. A smartphone is a traveler’s best friend. Even if you plan things, something always goes awry and the portable computer is right there with you.

    If people choose to be disengaged from society, that’s their poor choice, not the inanimate object’s in their hand.


    1. As someone who’s constantly fighting with her inclination to disengage, I’m afraid I would tune out entirely if I had a tool like a smartphone. Or, I should say, “I’m afraid I will tune out entirely once I have a tool like a smartphone,” because I know it’s coming.


      1. Oh no! Well, maybe you can get an app that reminds you to look up and engage every occasionally. As they say, “There’s an app for that.” 😉 But it is handy if you need to make notes on the spot. Or feed your sudoku addiction (yeah, guilty.) 😉


  9. This cracked me up, b/c until my spouse forced a smartphone on me, I was the same way. He even recently forced an upgrade on me so I’m the proud owner of a pink iPhone 5C …. and I’m not even a pink person, but they didn’t come in red or black. See, I have different problems now. 😉

    I am proud to say that I don’t actually know how to use it very well, and although I’m fairly good about keeping it charged (which is a miracle for me), I don’t even know how to get on the internet and I think Siri is an idiot. I have only recently learned to text. So it is possible to have a smartphone and still not be smart(ass).


    1. Whenever I think of Siri, I picture Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s daughter (whose name, I know, is Suri, not Siri, but that doesn’t stop the association). I actually do know how to text on my phone, I just don’t like to. And I refuse to buy a texting plan because it’s a racket, but then so is paying 10 cents per text. People have started complaining about my lack of texting and the fact that I can’t check my e-mail constantly, but I’m contrary enough, that just makes me even more adamant about not getting a smartphone.


  10. I read this article on a smart phone. I didn’t like them for the reasons you listed and now I love them for the same reason 😉 Though I wish my husband didn’t listen to podcasts non stop


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