I grew up in a time and place when telephones were quite common. TELEPHONES, not cell phones and certainly not smart phones. The telephones I speak of were dependable and utilitarian. In the 1960s of my youth, almost every house had a telephone, ONE telephone, that is, a single phone for the entire household. This telephone had a rotary dialer (anyone under the age of 35 will likely need to Google the term) and a handset that was permanently attached to the base of the phone by a thick and curly cord, a base that was itself permanently tethered by wire to a wall or baseboard, lacking even the more “modern” feature of being wired with 4-prong phone jack which could allow a phone to be unplugged from a wall outlet in one room and moved to another room. There were no answering machines, either. If you missed a call, well, tough. They’d just have to call back if it was that important. And this was enough.
Now our new wireless handsets put us at the beck and call (pun intended) of, potentially, the entire world. How many times have you been engaged in a face-to-face conversation with someone, only to have their cell phone ring and interrupt? “I’m sorry but I really need to take this call. It’ll only take a minute.” Or the times that a serenade of cute/vile/witty/obnoxious/ad infinitum notifications announce the arrival of a text or an email or a social media status update? How invasive. How rude. And how unnecessary.
I will admit with no hesitation that my own smart phone is customarily within easy reach (though almost never on my person) in a location where I can quickly retrieve it should I need it. And, as often as not, the phone is on airplane mode, whether day or night. Therein lies the point of this entire dispatch – my phone is for MY convenience, not for the immediate access to me by anyone else with the technology required to do so. The instantaneous incursion of the rest of the world into my space is something I no longer tolerate or allow. “But what happens if you miss something important?” people will ask. My very comfortable response is a smile and a gentle reminder that, if it’s that important they’ll leave a voice mail or call back. It is the artificial urgency technology permits that engenders so much stress in our bodies and our minds. FOMO – fear of missing out – is a menace that is both insidious and destructive. This is a stress that is completely within my power to reduce greatly if not eliminate entirely. All that is required is the flip of a virtual switch.
Lest there be any confusion as to my intentions and ultimate goals, I am not a Luddite. I don’t think technology is inherently dangerous or a threat to all that is good and right with the world. It is my aim, however, to not be swayed by the priorities or narratives of a culture that does not have my best interests at heart. To put it bluntly, my phone is for my convenience and no one else.
Those old telephones (with their features as well as their limitations) were a convenience that served me well for decades. Using new tech in an old way serves me quite well now. It is, for me, enough.
©Billy Red Horse