A ‘Smart’ Decision?

“I can’t talk now,” I said, “I’m trying to get out of the house to go look at smartphones.”

“What’s a smartphone?” said Tessa.

Someone younger than me without a Droid/Blackberry/iPhone? I thought I was the only one my age resisting the technology revolution, 24-7 access to our friends, family, clients and the world.

But it is time to get off the father’s family plan and get a (not so) little cell plan of my own, what with the new technology I was thinking about getting a new phone too.

I’ll admit it, I am afraid. But why?

Was it because I had to institute a no-texting in bed rule with a girl I was seeing last year; or the over-sharers among us (we know who we are) that update their Facebook status at family dinners, the “scrabble, or me” ultimatum I gave my ex-girlfriend on the New York subway after she got her new iPod touch, or the friends and acquaintances I see with a mini-computer attached to their hip.

“To me, it’s not a curse. I love it. So I couldn’t [function without it]– I would probably go into the shakes if I didn’t have it for a day or something,” said one user, interviewed by tech journalist John D. Sutter.

I got to wondering, is it the technology’s fault, or ours?

The results of a recent Academy of Sciences study showed that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli and from irrelevant representations in memory. That’s not a good sign.

But the real question I ask myself, the recovering tech-geek and someone prone to distraction, as I am told I need to get a new phone plan, is can I handle the technology?

My hypothesis is no.

I have an iPod shuffle, and a regular cell phone, and I immerse myself in them often when I ride BART to work, or school.

But sometimes I notice a guy with a “money bike” painted green and gold with dollar bills all over it, and he tells me his story. Or sometimes a friendly subway rider asks questions about my bicycle, OK, so a lot (what can I say, its an awesome bike).

I might even see a pretty young woman across from me reading a book about politics, chat her up, and impress her with my political geekiness.

But when my headphones are on, and I am propelling similarly colored bubbles into each other with my thumbs, those chances are limited.

Courtesy of writeonnewjersey.com

To be sure, there are good uses for Facebook, I almost found a friend in a foreign town to go with me to a concert I got by talking to the woman sitting next to me on a plane. Come to think of it, if I had been immersed in my smartphone, would I have gotten the tickets in the first place?

I got my first text message from Tessa last week, and boy was I surprised. This week I began a text to her asking for an interview for this piece with: “yes ms texter” and she responded “Oy I’m with other persons at the minute, can I call you luego? I feel enough guilt texting in front of them.”

That got me to wondering, would you text while on a date, OK maybe, would you pick up a call? Would you take a call you knew wasn’t important or urgent during conversation with friends, would you text?

On the way back from a journalism conference my fellow colleagues and I were listening to a song on the radio and couldn’t figure out the name or bank. Dan asked if any of us had heard about Shazzam, the program that identifies songs by listening to them when Wendi piped up from the back seat, “there really are no more unanswered questions anymore when you can Google anything anytime anywhere.”

These are some of the issues, and questions I face as I ponder the wisdom of joining the ranks of those who can among other things: never get lost (yet take forever to get somewhere, and feel completely naked without navigation), create hot spots for themselves and their friends when they are in a casino (or airport) that charges $20 a day for Wi-Fi, and see their girlfriend’s, or son’s or grandmother’s face from across the country on a $50 phone.

The first salesman at sprint was less pushy than I expected, he was eager to educate me about the different phones but got bored after it became clear I wasn’t buying immediately. Besides a little girl in the store with her family distracted me as she used the display cases as base to play with her motorized alligator. Maybe smartphones really do bring people together, at least when they are shopping for them.

The second one salesman hung out next to me virtually the entire time I was in the t-mobile store—maybe because that one was empty—extolling the virtues of watching TV on a four inch screen.

So should why buy a smartphone, I’m not a businessman, and I sure as hell don’t need one, but I would like to be able to video chat with my friends thousands of miles away without carrying my laptop. Are you capable of owning a smartphone without abusing it? Help Ryan decide!

Maybe my mother was right, after finishing my hardest final maybe I was really just participating in retail therapy.

UPDATE: I just sent a link to my friend so she could read it and got this response: “I’ll have to read it when I’m not driving lol.”

4 Responses to “A ‘Smart’ Decision?”
  1. Dad 2.0 says:

    I would say, “no.” Keep it real, dude. I say: get one if you need one for work, and use it as a work tool. If you don’t need it for work, don’t get one. Get a phone so that you can call people when you’re out and they can call you. I think your blog was a potent argument for letting Ryan be Ryan. Think of all the opportunities you get by unplugging, slowing down and keeping it real.

  2. Amara says:

    Don’t do it, no really Ryan, don’t do it. Don’t even think about it, there’s no point, getting a smart phone.Why
    the fuck would you, whyyyyyyy??

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