Phone-less in a World of Technology

In this day and age, iphones are common part of every day society. A constant distraction, resource, and comfort in this modern world. So what is it like to be phone-less in this world of technology?

I am 18 years old, and I do not have a smartphone.

Like most American kids of my generation, by the 6th grade I was begging my parents for a cell phone. I watched as my friends, one by one, got phones of their own. So fashionable and hip with their shiney cases, and sliding keyboards. Times were changing. It was no longer enough to email friends from the comfort of the home. I was convinced that in order to be a part of society, to be truly connected, I needed a cell phone. And so I begged my parents for a phone. And finally, the Christmas of 8th grade, I got one. I opened the box, and there it lay in all of its shiney- slidey- keyboard glory. And I was happy. I was cool. I was normal and included and relatable.

Not long after I got my first phone, my close friend got her first iphone. I felt a little jealous, but mostly annoyed. My phone wasn’t cool anymore. The new cool was touch screen, Instagram, music and photos on the go. Not only that, but I wasn’t as interesting anymore. When we used to hang out, it was just us goofing around together. Now when we hung out, it was me, her, and all of the people she was talking to through social media. I began to feel left out again. Not only left out of the world of technology, but of my friends worlds. There was a lack of attention during conversation, and a general disconnect, because the worlds we experienced- even when we were together- were inherently different.

And so I begged my parents for an iphone. They refused and I was upset. By my freshman year these devices had become so prevalent in my generation that I was one of very few who did not have one. I recall accusing my parents of wanting me to be left out. I begged and pleaded, but to no avail. I regret all of this now. In fact I can now see where my parents were coming from, and am wholeheartedly grateful that they did not give in. So what caused this shift in my attitude?

The essence of this change in viewpoint stems from the things that annoyed me so much as a child. Now, I can take a step back from my insecurities and deep need to blend in that was so acutely present in middle school. I realize that I do not want to be distracted all of the time. I want to be a present friend, and a good listener. I want to enjoy experiences without the compulsive need to document them, and prove that it happened.

My intent in this article is not to condemn iphone usage, or iphone users. iphones are useful, and practical and I have several friends with iphones who are present people and great listeners. What I am saying, is that I know myself and my social habits, and if I got an Iphone, I would easily slip into these same routines which, when on the other side of the situation, make me feel inadequate. In short, I would likely become a person I do not want to be.

Despite all of this, I still frequently consider getting an iphone. At this point my parents would allow me to get one if I payed for it and I find that reasonable. My phone works fine. However, there are aspects of modern life where it is not only convenient, but expected and necessary to have a smartphone.

In current school environments phones are often incorporated into the curriculum. However, when these devices first appeared there was a no phones rule in my classroom. As I recall, they were not even allowed to be used on school grounds. But soon they were allowed in backpacks as long as they stayed powered off. The rules continued to change. Phones could be used after school…then at breaks…then all of the time. Now, the majority of students keep their phones on their desks, and check them throughout the day.

As this technology becomes an increasingly prevalent part of modern society, phone etiquette has changed as well. It used to be rude to have cell phones at dinner. To take calls or texts while in conversation. Now this is common and expected. Phones are not so much an accessory, as an extension of our bodies. Always within inches of our fingertips. It is assumed that every American person of my age has one. I have had extra homework given because teachers incorporate cell phones into class activities. I have sat uncomfortable in a group of unlikely people, all of whom absorbed themselves into their phones to avoid the discomfort or necessity of talking. Every day I sit in groups of friends who pay half attention, and listen with half interest.

In these changing times,  questions constantly run through my head. Is it time for me to finally get a smartphone? Or is a little discomfort sometimes necessary to grow? Is this smartphone culture allowing people to live life in their comfort zone, and is this a good thing or a bad thing? Am I the only one who feels shut out and ignored when my friends only give half of their attention? Is getting a smartphone the answer to this shut out feeling?

Ultimately, I do not believe that getting a smartphone will solve this feeling for me.  I have used friend’s phones, and ipods, and made social media accounts. But the only time that this icky feeling of half attention and disconnect has left my realm of thought was over the summer, when I worked on a trail crew. Two and a half months of hard work and good friends, while camping under the stars every night. But one of the most striking aspects of this community was our lack of electronics. For all nine youth on my crew, ages 15- 19, not one phone, ipod, or personal electronic device was allowed. And the resulting community was incredible. There was no insecure questioning of whether I was good enough, or interesting enough, because people actually listened to what I said. The crew was present, and engaged, and loving. We made jokes that had the whole crew laughing, because it was a shared experience.

But this trail crew is another world. This is not modern life, or mainstream society. So I will likely get a smartphone at one point or another. Maybe when I go to college, or when my current phone breaks. Or maybe I will get rid of my phone all together. But for now, I will continue as I am. Because although it can be annoying and uncomfortable at times, living without a smartphone really isn’t all that bad. And, as I said, My slide phone works just fine.