Sunday Speculation: Cell Phones & Constant Connections

CC Pic by Nemo's Great Uncle/Flickr One of the things that the week off has given me is the knowledge that my current cell phone plan contract has expired. Being an individual that is acutely aware such details, it’s been expired from September. Perhaps it is a sign as to how much care and concern I give my cell phone (which sounds something akin to “Oops, I dropped it again. Oh good, it survived! Again!”), or perhaps it is a sign of the love/hate relationship I’ve had with this particular cell phone and provider. I don’t have a smartphone; I have what I can only term as a developmentally disadvantaged phone. It was born in an era slightly before the web interface really took off but they were smart enough to put a slide out keyboard so that I would not use it as a projectile having hit 3 a bunch of times in order to get a letter E for a text message. It’s been a nice run but, really, the limitations are such that it makes it more of a pain at times when a web enabled browser or just the perfect application would be quite delightful.

Despite having said that, I will admit there is a relief to not having a smartphone at times. Judging from how often my friends, family, and coworkers will glance at their phones, I do take a secret delight in not being that connected all the time. Some may argue that one doesn’t have to check the phone every time they get a buzz or a beep, but being the curious creatures that humans are (and me being one of the curiouser; yes, I just invented a word), I’d find it hard not to check and see what the message was. I’ve also had the distinct displeasure of sitting next to someone in a post conference meal and being ignored in favor of a smart phone conversation throughout the whole meal. I’m glad there were other people to talk to around me, but it was like sitting next to a wall of silence. A very rude experience, but thankfully it has only happened once.

There is a little joy in being just a tiny bit disconnected. If people really want to reach me, they can text, send me a DM through Twitter, or *gasp* call me. I do like calling people back after they send me text messages. It’s like a fun breach of some unwritten protocol about limiting it to text messages. But, seriously, in the same span of typing out several text messages back to you, we have can have the whole conversation in less than a minute and both go on with our lives. Text is great for dropping a quick note or having small exchanges when the phone isn’t an option, but there are things that are easier with just a quick call.

So, in getting to the actual speculation part of the post, I’m wondering if anyone else likes the idea of being slightly disconnected in this technology day and age. That they are purposefully technology limited so as to limit the amount of contact stimulus they have in their lives. For as much as I may protest being so connected, I have a touch of gadget dorkiness to me that makes me go “must get phone that can run my life”. I will probably give in, but not without an eye towards determining how much notification that I can get at one time.

My question is thus: how much connectedness do you prefer and how does your choice in technology reflect it?

14 thoughts on “Sunday Speculation: Cell Phones & Constant Connections

  1. I don’t have a smartphone. I don’t even have a phone with a QWERTY keypad. Most of the time, I keep my cell phone turned off. I still use it mostly as a tool to connect if I need to get in touch with someone for something relatively important while I’m out (calling AAA, calling to say I’ll be late, I’m lost and need directions, Where to meet up, etc.).

    I’m also a person who basically ignores a ringing phone, at home or at work, if I happen to be talking to someone else in person or if I just don’t want to interrupt what I’m doing.

    If I’m in the middle of something, I glance at my caller ID…if it’s someone I need to talk to at that moment, I will. otherwise, I ignore it. I know I’m in the minority in this practice, but if I’m talking to someone, it just seems really rude to let the phone interrupt.

    • I’m decent at ignoring the phone now. When I was taking care of my grandmother, I *had* to look to make sure something wasn’t wrong. It’s that paranoid feeling you get because you really don’t want to miss anything, especially in that case.

      I think there is a big fat ‘it depends’ when it comes to a ringing phone. It’s the situation and whether it is an appropriate thing. I can’t define it, but I know when it is.

  2. Thanks for this post, Andy. It sounds like I have a phone from the same era as yours. I thought I was the only one who got a tiny bit of pleasure from being free of the smartphone tether. I keep telling everyone (including myself) that I’m just waiting for verizon to get the iphone, but I honestly wonder if when that happens (if ever), I will regret my techno-distance… It’s really like a love/hate thing with me – I crave that connection but I can also see how it can take over. Plus, I like being able to think about my responses before replying and I think if I had push email & lots of notifications, I might miss the excuse of not being near a computer. Happy new year! :)

    • Yeah, I see that Verizon is getting the iPhone. Consider my investment in other Apple products, I’m tempted to go with that since I can sync across a couple of devices. Plus, I’m familiar with the look/feel of the iPhone through my iPod Touch.

      But, I know I have friends who love their Droid phones. I’ll be looking for some advice once they announce when the iPhone is coming out for Verizon (they estimate before Valentine’s day).

  3. My desire to be disconnected from the world depends on time and place. On my dad’s two recent trips to the hospital, my iPhone never left my side because someone would call or email with updates on his condition, and I didn’t want to miss it. However, when I’m on the New York City subway or an airplane and don’t have a signal, I actually enjoy the break – I can read/knit/do whatever uninterrupted.

  4. I do have a smartphone but I have all my “push” notifications for email or Facebook and Twitter (even DM) turned off. If my phone beeps more often than yours its only because I’m more popular than you :-) All joking aside you can achieve the same effect with a smart phone. Perhaps its because even before the era of easily accessible phones (I can’t say cell cuz my first one was one of those monster bag phone that stayed in the car and I got like 20 min a month or something) I have felt comfortable ignore the phone. I can remember in college on days when I was busy or just didnt’ feel like answering or talking to anyone letting the phone go to my answering machine (how quaint :-) ) Even now I’m there are plenty of times I don’t answer my phone, not just when I’m in public but at home too. Treat your phone like the tool it is and you’ll be fine with a smart phone. And you’ll get the benefits of having one too such as apps like Yelp and Google Maps, I find these invaluable when I travel. I love being able to use my Kindle app to read when I’m stuck waiting and forgot a book. plus there are lots more :-)

  5. Andy,

    I’m with Bobbi. The only time my phone notifies me of anything with a noise is for phone calls, text messages and reminders(which is why i switched to a smartphone in the first place). I turned off noise for the other services.

    I have had no trouble keeping my life free from the tether. When my alarm clock died and I started using my phone as my alarm, I quickly noticed that upon awaking I was reading e-mail. I don’t really want to engage with a device moments after waking. So, I bought an alarm clock and leave my phone in the kitchen at night.

    I love the functionality; but, I occasionally leave it home on purpose just because it’s a good reminder about disconnection.

    I have noticed one behavior I’d like to change. If I have 15 minutes to have a break or i’m on a subway or something, I find myself playing games on the phone instead of reading or meditating or contemplating or observing my surroundings. I need to break myself of that.

    Good Luck!

  6. Ms3, yesterday: “Mommy, is your phone still dumb? Why is your phone dumb?”

    Yes, sweetie. My phone is dumb.

    Many of my friends are early adopters; I’m not. I like to see other people explore the features and work the first-generation kinks out before I blow the cash. And, like you, I’m disturbed at how often people look at their phones instead of the people right in front of them. And I don’t know that I have the self-discipline to have the internet in my pocket and not immediately descend into a gibbering ADD interrupt generator, attention span sliced to Wikipedian ribbons as information amphetamines jitter up my brain.

    That said, I’m obviously going to be a social pariah one of these days if I don’t get one. My friends don’t even know how to make plans anymore because they all have smartphones. They can’t give directions because their phones all have GPS. Oy.

    And I can see the benefits to having a device like that, too — not just in terms of intimate awareness of professionally useful trends, but also because the device is better at some things than I am. Like, keeping track of time and remembering my plans and reminding me I meant to do them. Maybe if I use it thoughtfully I can leverage it to become more mighty, you know?

    My phone contract is up April 2. (Why yes, I checked.) If I have a job by then I expect I’ll spring for a smartphone, and quite likely my husband will too. (We’d have to substantially upgrade our phone plan as well as our devices — not cheap!) If I don’t…that’ll be a tougher call.

  7. Regarding being “disconnected”….I have texting and a smart phone and enjoy its benefits when commuting by train or checking sports scores…but I get seriously exasperated with people who are mindlessly connected! I work part time at a bookstore and trying to help people or check them out while they are talking on the phone or texting is annoying. I believe “this too, shall pass” just like the enjoyment of email….I don’t need to listen to music (gasp!) all the time, either, even when exercising! I like quiet.

  8. Hi my name is Amelia and I’m a Blackberry addict.

    I’m one of those people who’s Blackberry is better called a Crackberry and it started while in Grad School. I needed to be connected a lot more during my commutes to and from campus and while running around campus then I do now. I have my push notifications sent to my phone and it’s always there with me.

    I don’t like it! I just ended a relationship where he was the same way and I realized how really annoying it is to be with someone who is constantly with their phone in hand. I’m slowly trying to become disconnected.

  9. No smartphone either. And I still like maps. And I like driving and getting lost and then finding my way home w/o even a map. I bet you can’t tell I love research, any research.

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