It’s a matter of escalation

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?

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7 Responses to It’s a matter of escalation

  1. Sarah B. says:

    I just heard on the radio that smart phones are terrible phones. That they really are internet connectors, cameras, boarding passes, etc. So, if you’re looking for a phone, fancy apparantly is not the way to go.

    I wouldn’t know anything though since we got our first prepaid cell phone two weeks ago.

  2. daveloveless says:

    I knew there was a reason we liked you guys. 🙂

    We’ve talked about the pre-paid phone idea as well, but for our needs, it makes more sense just to do what we’re doing now.

  3. joeandlora says:

    Dave, we feel the same way and have had the same questions with our kids in the future too. Are we setting our little girl up for “Little House on the Prarie meets high school” one day? 🙂 Still, I like the idea of taking technology slowly (or sometimes not at all). Once a general authority was visiting our stake and someone asked (in a Q&A session) when the Church was going to update their website. He responded that the Church does not TRY to be on the cutting edge of technology; basically they’ll move forward technologically when THEY think it’s a good idea. I thought that was interesting. .. and maybe a good middle ground.

  4. daveloveless says:

    I totally agree with the Church’s stance, Lora. I often get mocked for my “backward” stance on technology, but it’s so liberating from my point of view not to be tied to a machine. And frankly, I see most of those tools as profound wastes of money.

    I have a friend who upgrades his phone every time a new one comes out often at pretty hefty fees ($200+). Good for you, but I can do soooo much more with that money.

    I was talking to Courtney about it over lunch, and we realized that for one year of fees with a smart phone, we could buy her a Kindle (which meets her real issues MUCH better) and me a netbook (which meets my real issues MUCH better). And then we’d be done. No monthly data fees, no switching phones every year/2 years, no nothing.

    That makes so much more sense to me.

  5. Travis says:

    I agree with your dad when it comes to the cell phone- I want it to dial, I want to be able to talk, I want to have amessage taken, I want it to hang up. I like the fact that I have nothing more than I have as well. And you know that I am a tech geek in some ways. Just not in that way.

  6. Sarah L. says:

    I don’t own a cell phone at all and I like it that way and will like it that way until I break down with my 4 children somewhere. I just don’t want to go down that slippery slope of owning a cell phone and having to own one more nifty than I need and feeling like I might as well use those features until I just can’t do without it.

    I get really frustrated with friends who won’t put their phone down while we’re visiting. Can’t they just let the voice mail pick up? That’s how it was when the phones stayed at home.

    We used to have cable and now over 8 years without having it, I don’t really miss it and I’m glad we don’t have it because there would always be something the kids would want to watch because of Cartoon Network, Nick, Disney, etc. I think it would be harder to have it and then take it away from the kids and cable is a nice novelty when they go to Grandma’s. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Stepped off the deep end? Google+ « the prodigal

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