While this is a bit of pointless personal information that really isn’t going to change anything, I feel the need to make the statement in the face of rather obsessive popularity among the public at large (it is a blog, after all,) and so: I really don’t like cell phones.
Some of this is personal, I admit it. And some of it is because I tend to look at things critically, especially those things that become popular – I learned long ago not to trust the “judgment” of others, and in fact to be highly suspicious of it. But let’s look at it from the simple standpoint of reasons why I should get a fancy cell phone.
Emergency use – The last time I actually needed a phone in an emergency that would not have been available as a land line or nearby business was in 2001. No, seriously. Imagine the money I saved on monthly fees in the intervening 12 years. Sure, this is one anecdote and mileage varies, but let’s be real: no one uses their phone primarily for emergencies.
Business use – This was the reasoning behind making the damn things popular in the first place; apparently a lot of people were either too stupid to hire someone competent to take calls while they themselves were away from the office, or believed they were the only ones competent. Again, let’s be real. But this is the only reason I actually have a cell phone myself, a cheapass little pay-as-you-go jobby that costs me, literally, $20 every three months because I never use all the minutes on it. It’s there for students, for either of us to let the other know we may be held up or lost or something. It serves that purpose maybe three times a year. Everything else goes through the land line, which sits by my desk and computer and is handy for scheduling, looking up details, mapping, and all that rot.
Text messages – Quite possibly the stupidest thing our society has ever gotten involved in. Part of the reason it became popular was that it cost so much to make voice calls, but you know? The day I look to teen girls to help me judge the value of something is the day after a full-frontal lobotomy. Nearly two hundred years after inventing the telegraph, we reinvented it with pretty colors and thought this was cool.
Now, there are uses for messages that are not voice calls; that’s what e-mail is for. Same desk as above. And it has a better interface, takes place on a full-sized keyboard where even my rotten typing style pulls off 40 words a minute, and handles attachments of any kind. Not to mention it does not interrupt me when I don’t want it to.
To be “connected” – One of those things where its appeal comes from how cool it sounds. I’m plenty connected as it is, thanks all the same. I have my own website and blog, spend no small amount of time on others, and do most of my business through such means. I might have had one client that I lost because I didn’t reply to them right away; nobody else was so anxious (and to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want someone like that for a client anyway.)
True, I don’t Tweet, Facebook, or any other social dipfuckery, and take my time when writing posts because I’m serious about it – I couldn’t care less about the minutia of anyone else’s life and don’t imagine they need to hear mine (if you thought this wasn’t an interesting topic you already stopped reading long ago.) I had a Facebook account some time back, that I created when the place I worked for needed to know what social networking would do for their donations. The answer: not a fucking thing, and the account bored me so badly I ditched it. Even from the standpoint of a nature photographer, I already have a site, and it’s possible to “follow” me here.
Somebody told me that I would have gotten more from Facebook if I’d had the right Friends; considering he was one of my Friends, another photographer to boot, and not contributing much, I could only smile…
They’re so handy to have! You can look up anything, get directions, blah blah blah – Horseshit. First off, I’m actually capable of planning, since I was born decades before fancy phones existed. I know how to read a map. I am not flighty or ill-focused, so the number of times I’m “out” and change my mind about what I’m doing is almost nil. I have attempted to use someone’s smutphone for exactly this kind of connectedness, twice. Once there was no signal to be had (in the middle of Raleigh, for fuck’s sake!) and in the other case, the interface was so clumsy that I couldn’t actually locate the information I wanted, and seriously degraded my mood in the attempt.
We’ve reached a curiously stupid point in our lives, where phones are now too big to carry comfortably and yet still too small to use in the manner that drove their sizes up in the first place. My fingers are average size, and yet too big for most of the touch-screen uses I’ve attempted to put them to, and especially too big to try and type words on a fake keyboard. I don’t quite get the appeal of smacking the screen two or three times to get them to register the touch which is their sole point in existing. And maybe I’m getting old, but I don’t find looking at anything on a screen the size of a cigarette pack to be useful in any way. And my desktop computer still feeds a measly 17″ monitor…
I can’t buy the convenience factor when I see people constantly grappling with, fumbling, and dropping their handy toys; by a significant margin, most touch screens that I’ve seen have been cracked, and I’ve watched a few phones shatter when dropped in public – boy, wasn’t that handy? Worth spending another $400 on to get those important “LOL! 2 TRU!” messages, I’m sure. And yes, I’ve been recruited in the search for phones numerous times, and have heard the dead battery/lost charger mantra more times than I can count – somehow, the marvelous uses of these phones did not merit the extra effort of basic care…
The cell phone I carry with reluctance is yet another thing taking up space, formerly in my pockets until one day, when sprawled on the ground doing macro work, 911 called me back – I had apparently dialed them by pressing the phone against the ground. Notable about this is that I had the keypad lock on, requiring a one-second push of the * key before the phone could even operate. So now the stupid thing rides in a belt case to protect the keyboard, making me one of those people, but then again, imagine how much money I’d be out if I’d been carrying a fragile touch-screen phone instead.
You can count on them – The old emergency use, “I can call from anywhere” schtick. First off, I have no use for this in 99% of the cases. When I’m away from my desk, I’m busy, and not inclined to get into a phone conversation. Even the land line has call-waiting shut off because, quite simply, if I’m talking to you, it’s rude to dump your conversation in favor of anyone else. I’m crazy that way. Second, of the various places I’ve gone which might actually be dangerous enough to warrant having a phone handy, most of them don’t have any signal anyway – one of them is two kilometers from the house. And let’s consider the conditions where this would be useful, which are, a) too injured to walk out, but b) not so injured that I’d be unconscious, and c) managed not to damage the damn thing in doing so, and finally d) someplace where no one ever goes. That’s a pretty narrow set of circumstances, voided with e) letting someone know where I’ll be and for how long.
They’re handy when you’re bored – Let’s be real, this accounts for most of the uses, but that’s not me. It’s rare that I’m in a situation where I cannot wander outside to see what kind of bugs are about, or just people-watch, but when it does occur, I usually have the presence of mind to bring a book. They run less than ten bucks, actually have substance, can be dropped with minimal damage, and don’t need recharging. Few bright colors and no bonus points for finishing a chapter, true, but you can buy those little gold stars your teacher used to give out if it helps.
And then there are the explicit reasons not to get one. Like, they’re simply the most annoying things to talk on, with rotten connectivity. Just ten years ago we watched television commercials touting the remarkable clarity of telephone providers’ (land) services; now we see maps where you simply cannot get any. I have honestly had to ask my boss who they were, multiple times, because of the iPhone’s abysmal sound quality, compressed horribly to allow for all the other stupid shit to use the same bandwidth, and I have a friend who I miss almost half of the words she speaks because of the same thing. I have this little criteria, call me demanding: if it’s a phone, and sold as a phone, and even has phone in the name, then it should work, above everything else, as a phone.
Then, my dog, the photos! Look, I’m glad insecure teen girls can get piccies of themselves in the mirror without having to juggle a heavy camera one-handed, but using these godawful piece of shit phone cameras to attempt anything else is simply ludicrous. It’s astounding to come from a mere decade ago, when the resolving power of lenses was a major discussion point in photography, to images that resemble those from the Polaroid cameras that people were so quick to discard at garage sales. There really needs to be another term; we already have camera, which means a device for taking photos, and so we need, I dunno, perhaps a gossipa, for getting snapshots of drunk friends and bad concerts, something that will be deleted within a year and never serve a real purpose at any time. I have a strong stomach, I even like roller coasters, but I want a law requiring something like, “Warning! This video clip shot on a cell phone by someone who couldn’t hold steady to save their miserable life. May induce nausea, heart arrhythmia, epileptic fits, and extreme irritation. You won’t see a damn thing anyway, so don’t waste your time.”
The most interesting aspect of connectivity is how much of a lie it is. I send e-mails to people with smutphones, and rarely get a reply, and never a detailed one. I never leave voicemails anymore unless it’s business-related, because no one ever listens to them (yes, this might just be me – I’ll work on my people skills.) But most especially, I see nothing positive about masturbating with a toy in public. We’re beginning to have new social rules to deal with people so obsessed with these things that they cannot interact usefully, and need signs posted in places of business to remind total fucking morons (there are apparently a lot of them) to put the phone away before trying to use their services. In what brain-damaged way is this supposed to be beneficial, to us or anyone else? What about connecting with the people right smack in front of you, or does this not count?
And of course, this says nothing of the very real, and very distinct, danger of death – death, for fuck’s sake – from using the goddamn things when operating vehicles. I already know how distracting even a conversation in the car can be; I see no reason whatsoever to contribute to that, or to believe that I’m different in some way (the same argument used by drunk drivers, with the same results.)
I imagine there could be at least a few people reading who consider me a Luddite, or a technophobe, or something kneejerky like that, never realizing that they’re reading this on a website that I maintain myself, featuring regular posts of digital images and a few scripts running here and there. I just have a particular outlook: technology is not good or bad, it’s just intended to serve a purpose. And for me, the purpose isn’t to do what everyone else does, or obtain the latest gadgets, or make excuses for expensive toys. If the functionality isn’t there, or if it costs a hell of a lot more than its value, then it ain’t happening on my dime. People can consider that weird if they like.
Anyway, I feel better now.