First things first, Courtney and I are simple people. We’re more or less united on this front. Both of us would love a home far out in the rural areas of the US with land for farming and living on our own labors. Both of us are relatively techno-phobic, meaning that we don’t really care about the latest gizmos and that we could happily live with basic technology. I still have never sent a text message in my life, and I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon. I just don’t care, and neither does Courtney.
But we have a dilemma. See, our cell phones are up for renewal (a trend we both jumped on finally in the last five years), and we’re finding the selection among dumb phones to be increasingly limited. We’re both much like my father who famously stated, “I want it to ring, I want it to take a message, and I want it to hang up.” I couldn’t agree more.
So what do you do when the dumb phones are extremely limited, poor in quality, and no more inexpensive than smart phones?
I think the thing that gets me most, though, is the escalation. Just a few weeks ago, we debated ditching the cell phones entirely, to which both of us replied that we couldn’t do that, even though we’ve lived a combined 50+ years without cell phones. I know that if we go the smart phone route, there is no going back. And while we don’t currently use all of those smart phone features, because of escalation, we would. And because we would start to use them now, we would want to and even need to then.
And then there is the escalation of cost. Our voice plan has cost us $54.99 every month for five years. It never goes up, it never goes down. Adding a smart phone would add at least $40 a month in data plans. Plus, we’d have to pay a little to actually get the smart phone ($50 to $80 per phone), so there’s that to consider, and I can honestly see a LOT better things to spend that money on every year than a phone in my pocket. And that’s even more true for Courtney, who uses her phone pretty much when I call her and only then. Is it worth it to buy even the smallest data plan for such minimal data usage? Currently we have the smallest plan that we can actually get, and we rarely come even close to using 50% of the available minutes. I have a hard time justifying spending what amounts to more than $600 per year on an expanded phone package that we wouldn’t use.
On the other side, there is the increasing awareness that this techno-rich world is moving faster than we are. That we are simply not adopting technology as fast as the world expires it. There’s a definite feeling of being left behind, and while that generally doesn’t bother me (you can have Twitter, Facebook, and all those other social tools, thank you very much), I do recognize that we are less and less a part of that world.
We also wonder the effect on the kids. Just yesterday we were joking how when we were children, we learned to “call grandma” by dialing on a rotary phone. I doubt Katherine even gets that. For her, a phone number isn’t a number, it’s a name in my address book that says “grandma.” For her, the numbers are the controls that play the games, not actual numbers you use to call someone. Sure, she’s only five, but I do wonder if we are setting her and Myron up for a lack of understanding when they reach an age where the Internet and technology starts to have greater impact and effect in their lives. Will they see that age as an impenetrable barrier created by their parents’ “backward” attitudes on technology, will they see at as finally drinking from the “forbidden” well, or will it just be something they adopt readily and easily? And for us as parents, which is the right way? And even if it were the right way, is it worth moving ourselves in that direction with all the distraction and noise those things bring to us?
I’ve long believed that the world is too much with us. Part of my hesitancy towards technology is the overwhelming distraction it can become. I see people now who have learned how to not have real conversations with people. I see people who surface for air only when physical needs drive them from the computer screen. I see relationships that exist only on the technical neurons of an abstract universe, and I pity all of that. Myron is currently in love with the movie Wall-E, and I always find myself looking up to catch the scene where Mary turns off John’s monitor and they both look out the window for, probably, the first time. It’s both poignant and scary that that fictitious culture descended to that depth of disinterest in actual contact and relationship.
Sure it’s probably a bit of an extreme to carry the concept that far, but I just almost see it in that way when it comes to smart phones and, especially, social networking. I don’t Facebook not because I dislike Facebook. I don’t do it because I can’t place value in a relationship that exists in that netherworld of the Internet. And a smart phone seems an open invitation to embrace that foreign land just a little too closely.
Hmm…. I guess it’s not so much of a decision after all, is it?