September 25, 2012

We’ve Got Mail

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I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t have a Droid, or that Motorola thing that has a big screen. My phone is not smart, it is distinctly stupid. It holds what seems like 10 text messages at a time, has the battery life of a frozen banana and I can probably count the number of pixels in each picture it takes. The worst part about having this phone is not actually the phone itself (in fact I rather like it, but we’ll get to that later). The worst part is every person who sees my stupid phone and feels the need to ask me why I don’t have a smartphone. “Why don’t you conform to the lifestyle I have created for myself and have come to believe is impossible to not conform to?” they ask, unable to comprehend how I could possibly live my life the way I do. This of course is not limited to smart phones, we express dismay and disparage anybody who might have the audacity to still be using a PC or who doesn’t watch Breaking Bad. I am of course guilty of all of this as well. We are uncomfortable with others not living the way we do because we perceive it as a threat to our way of life.

How could I not need access to the Internet at all times? What if I wanted to see what time a movie was playing? What if I got an important email? Every time I ask my girlfriend to check an address on her iPhone she sees this as validating her belief that a smartphone is necessary and I am living in the Stone Age. But the thing is, I do think smart phones are awesome and useful gadgets. When my girlfriend and I visited London together the GPS and Time Out London app were both extremely useful. The reason I don’t want a smartphone is not because of it, its because of me. There is something terrifying about being constantly connected, having access to Facebook, email, YouTube, whenever I want. I have a hard enough time sitting down and reading without being distracted every two minutes by a text message, why would I then want to add the entire Internet to my list of constant distractions? I’ve probably checked my email 15 times just during the course of writing this column. Would I really want to have something as addicting as Reddit in my pocket at all times? So that even when I am on the bus, eating at a restaurant or taking a shit I can give myself the momentary and fleeting joy that the Internet delivers? Don’t get me wrong, wasting time on the Internet is a great deal of fun, and I have gotten very good at it. But I don’t want another device that enables my addiction to momentary euphoria even further. I stopped watching porn when I was in high school, but by the eighth time I had seen “Gangnam Style” I suddenly felt the need to buy new socks.

My dilemma is that the culture has already shifted against my struggle. A few weeks ago, I received an email from a professor but wasn’t near a computer until later that evening. By the time I checking it, I had already received another email asking me why I had not responded to the first. I felt like I was back in high school, when I would turn my phone on after a movie and have 10 voicemails (by the way what happened to those?) from my mom, each getting progressively angrier and more frantic asking me where I was. Because everybody else is responding to emails instantaneously, I suddenly have to as well. Think about how long it takes for somebody not to answer your text messages before you start to get antsy. 30 seconds? A minute? We are all complicit in creating a society where we need to be in touch at all times. But we have traded this immediate validation in exchange for stress and insecurity. We now need to be up on the most current memes, songs of the week and know that Chris Brown just got a tattoo of a battered woman on his neck. What happens when you are always connected is that you cannot be truly invested in anything else you are doing. How can you study for an exam, read a book, have a conversation when your phone is buzzing with every text, email, Facebook and Twitter update? There is no cure for any of this, it’s all too amazing, feels too good and seems to important to just evaporate. But maybe, when you have that sudden urge to check and see if you have a facebook notification, just punch yourself in the face, staple your nipples together and keep reading that book.

Dan Rosen is a senior in the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning. He may be reached at [email protected]. Smell the Rosen ap­pears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Dan Rosen