Sunday, June 12, 2011

Can We LIve Without Smart Phones?

This is an article I read in Forbes. The link is at the end of the post. It is about what happen when the author, Haydn Shaughnessy, gave up his smart phone. I will not try to summarize his article. My suggestion is that you read it.

My comments assume that you will read it. I must admit, I love my smart phone. Unlike my kids, I do not play games. Rather, my phone is a tool. I use it to read news. In addition, it allows me to check Twitter accounts (two serve as news feeds), LinkedIn, Facebook, and text my family. Yes, I do update various social network accounts and email photos to my family.

In a couple of respects I think Mr. Shaughnessy is correct. I do use my phone to fill my down time or when I am bored. When I get a text message or an email, I want to check it immediately. On that point, I would agree, that is not good. Sometimes I feel like an old Star Trek TV series character (the series shot in the 1960s). I have my communicator and waiting for Mr. Scot to tell me the transporter is now working and I will be beamed up. Yes, just like the TV series character (and I am wearing a red uniform which means I will die, Trekkies will understand this) I hold my communicator waiting for Mr. Scot's signal.

He is also right that it distorts time. Time stops being a precious commodity and becomes an endless series of deadlines and calls, etc. I can see a difference since I got a smart phone. It breaks concentration. As an avid reader of business and current event books, magazines and journals, I find my time cut up more. Indiana Senator Richard Lugar reserves one hour a day to read and his staff does not interrupt him. That is admirable and impressive. It is a practice I hope to start and encourage others to do so too.

My possible addiction to my smart phone reminds me of the great book The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. The premise of the book is a demon, Screwtape, coaches his nephew, Wormwood, on how to get an Englishman to damnation. The key advice offered by Screwtape is you must move the Englishman in small steps of temptation. After hundreds of small steps, Wormwood will have the Englishman exactly where he wants him. A strong reliance to a smart phone is the same path, hundreds of small steps or in this case adding games, applications, texting, news feeds and social networks. Pretty soon you are charging your phone every 2-3 hours and seldom "talk" to anyone.

The first wireless phones I saw were in bags and cost something like $0.33 per minute. So you used your phone carefully. This was in the late 1980s.

Like most people, I went from a simple cell phone that was nothing more than a wireless hard line phone with an almost unlimited range to a smart phone. It was quite a leap. Suddenly, more apps than you can shake a stick at. More news and reference material than I thought could ever be on a phone. That must be why it is called a “smart” phone. It offers the instant ability to effortlessly check news, emails, and social networks. Best of all, a touch screen that makes it easy to send and receive texts and emails. How much better can it get? For the answer to that question, I must ask my kids.

The solution? First, I do not want to get rid of my smart phone. On that point I disagree with Mr. Shaughnessy. A smart phone does give a person a sense of security. It can be beneficial when you need a phone number or directions to a location. It is very helpful at an airport, and then again, so is my Kindle. I think it takes more of an effort to stop all notifications of messages, news feeds, for an hour or two. Perhaps I could even put the phone in another room for an hour or two. It is not that I am necessarily addicted to my smart phone (perhaps I am) but it is more a question of managing it. Just like an exercise or diet program. One day at a time.

For those of us that were introduced to emails and the internet after we graduated from college and well on our way to a satisfying career, it actually reminds me of the addiction to email years ago. Email replaced the fax machine. You also had people communicate via email as opposed to face to face interactions. In this sense I have seen people use email as a crutch. It was so bad you saw numerous self-help articles and advice in leading business magazines and journals. As with the email addiction of decades ago, this too shall pass and we will be wiser. Of course today we have texting.

The link to the article follows. I suggest you read it.

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