Last of the Luddites: my life without a smartphone

    I still remember how excited I was the day I got my new phone.

    After having endured four years with an old, fat flip-phone, I was eager to graduate from technology’s buried remains to its cutting edge. And when the day finally came, my hopes and dreams would finally be realized: I’d be getting a Verizon LG Cosmos.

    Finally, I’d have a phone with a camera, a voice recorder and, of course, a full keyboard — no more T9 Word for me! No longer would I text more slowly than all my friends…no more would I need to bring up a “symbols” menu just to type a comma. This was the real deal, and I knew it.

    The sense of wonderment and bemusement I got from my brand-new phone was instant, and it hasn’t faded in the two years I’ve used it. As far as I was concerned, this was the best brand of phone I could have. Why? Because it was better than the one I had before.

    Of course, I’d always been vaguely aware of people who had so-called “smartphones,” but such extravagances never appealed to me. I was happy with my good ole’ Cosmos. At least I was, until I came to college.

    I was dismayed to see that at Northwestern, phones with internet capability are considered more than a commodity: They’re a necessity.

    They’re a necessity in an environment where everyone uses email to set up meetings and keep each other updated. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten home to an email sent in vain hours earlier from a friend or professor or editor asking to meet on short notice.

    They’re a necessity as a freshman when I’m looking for an off-campus event and I have no sense of direction or bearing on where I’m going (Me: “Party at Noyes and Ridge? Where the hell is that?” My friend: “Well we’re on Simpson now…why don’t you just bring up Google Maps on your phone?).

    And they’re a necessity for me personally, as a Medill student, to stay up to date on current events going on around the campus and around the country. A lot of new information becomes available between the time I read the news in the morning and the time I open up my Facebook late in the afternoon.

    Of course, all these services are readily and instantly available from any laptop computer, but when living a college lifestyle that involves constantly being on the move from one end of campus to another, that just doesn’t cut it anymore.

    Sure, we may have access to instant gratification on computers, but suddenly it needs to be instant everywhere. In some sick twist of fate, merely having unlimited information at our disposal is now only valuable if it’s literally in our pockets. Because it’s the latest technology, and therefore it’s what we need.

    I’m sure as soon as I get an iPhone or a Droid — if that day ever does come — the gadget will amaze me, and I’ll wonder how I ever got by with my cheap keyboard phone that couldn’t even translate street signs or make fart noises. And then, inevitably, some new technology will invade our homes and jobs and classes and make me feel like what I’m stuck with is useless.

    Technology is overwhelming, and it’s all too easy to succumb to its constant pressure — I know it’s only a matter of time until I do. Until that day comes, all I can do is see how long I can last with my Cosmos. If the times are any indicator, I won’t last long.


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