A couple of weeks ago, I contemplated updating my phone to a newer model. It’s been over three years with the same phone and Verizon sent me a message saying something along the lines of, “Hey, are you still alive? Get a new phone already!” Though, I’d like to think of myself as a person who doesn’t fall victim to consumerism, it seems as though holding out three years is like a lifetime nowadays.
As I started browsing my options for a new iPhone (because once you go Apple you never go backle — damn, I wish that sounded cooler…), I quickly became overwhelmed. Should I get rose gold or black, 32 or 164 GB, payment plan or pay in full?
For a cool minute I contemplated if I really even needed a phone at all. That thought was quickly archived in the “dumb thoughts I have sometimes” part of my brain. I realized that it would be more of a disservice to my family, friends and work if I tried to go all 90s and be phone-less. So then I thought, well maybe I’ll throw it back to 2007 and get a flip phone. That’ll curb the spending too much time on my phone dilemma, and save me about $800.
That too, was deemed ridiculous by both my brain and to about any person I casually discussed it with, who is a) human, b) holds a job and is c) relatively sane.
It’s pretty unreal to think about how these are the “struggles” phone users face in 2017. Just ten years ago, this wasn’t really an issue. Sure, there were business people and rich kids with Palm Pilots and Blackberry smartphones, but in general, less people had smartphones. Phones were still more of a choice, rather than the modern day necessity that marketers have convinced us that they are today.
But, let’s back up for a moment, because I feel like there’s an important point missing here. Firstly, I obviously have a certain level of privilege to spend time contemplating whether or not to get a flip phone so that I can be more “present”. The fact that I have the privilege to reflect upon a matter such as this and already can escape into a smartphone world indicates that I’ve not now or ever had to worry about when I’m going to get my next meal or if I will have a roof over my head. And there is no doubt in my mind that smartphones have given more power to the people in a certain sense.
Some positives include: more people have internet access than ever; apps such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger have revolutionized the way we communicate globally, giving families the power to communicate more cost effectively. All smartphone users now have a global map in their pocket at all times; allowing them to navigate foreign cities and not have to carry around huge paper maps. In addition, all smartphone users have a fairly high quality (it varies based on the phone) camera 24/7, which they can use to capture small moments, without needing a separate device.
So, yes there are many pros to more people having smartphones. However, the idea that we all need to have them, is where we become trapped. And, I would argue that many of us already are trapped in technology with or without realizing it.
We’re trapped in expensive phone plans. We’re trapped with the expectation of being able to stay connected at any point in time via call, email or social media. We’re trapped in the idea of never being able to fully step away from our phones — not at the dinner table, school or work meetings. We’re trapped in a vicious cycle and no one really knows what to do about it. All we can do is either say enough is enough and sacrifice convenience for the principle of the matter. Or, more common, eventually give in and upgrade, signing over half or all of your paycheck to a device and phone company so that you can have a camera with higher pixels and a waterproof lens. Before we know it our mobile phones will have more mobility than us. Oh the irony.