I don't need a smartphone.
I spend most of my time at home or in my office. A regular phone is always nearby, and a computer or a laptop is always available to get those breaking emails or to look up those important baseball stats.
I don't want a smartphone.
There are times when I don't WANT to be available. I don't want to be emailed while I'm picking up a gallon of milk at the store. I don't want to videoconference with someone while I'm driving on the highway. I don't want GPS technology to pinpoint my location when I'm at an illegal gerbil-fighting arena.
This week I bought a smartphone.
I don't feel good about it. In my defense … no, I have no defense. It's a cool device, no question, but I have given in to slick advertising and smothering peer pressure.
For a long time, I've tried to ignore the Blackberry surgically grafted to my wife's hand. But now just about everyone has one, or an iPhone, or an Android, or whatever the next generation version is.
At a recent get-together with a half-dozen friends I only see once or twice a year, lunch consisted of five people huddled over their smartphones — sending texts and emails, posting pictures, looking up fun facts about Luke Perry, playing Angry Birds — and me.
I slipped my sad little phone out of my pocket — no Internet, no keyboard, no birds (angry or otherwise) — and quietly hid it under my napkin.
"Aw, my battery is dead. Heh heh." And that was the last bit of conversation I had.
I come from a family that was the last in the neighborhood to get a touch-tone phone ("Why do you need buttons when you can dial the numbers just fine?"). Also the last to get a cordless phone ("Where are you going to go that a cord can't reach?"). My dad still has a tin can attached to a string in his kitchen.
I held off on getting a cellphone at all until finally forced to by my employer, but even then I claimed that all I needed was something that would be able to make and receive phone calls. I had a camera to take pictures. A computer to surf the Internet. A stereo to play my music.
Now I have no one to blame but myself, and my own weakness.
I admit that the new phone is an excellent piece of technology. I haven't figured out all the features yet, but I think it can make and receive phone calls, and there's much, much more.
My "phone" takes pictures, wakes me up in the morning, gives me turn-by-turn directions on the road. With it I can surf the Web, read my email, pay the electric bill. I can check movie times, play movies, make my own movies.
My phone can manage my fantasy football team and send my mom a gift on her birthday. It can control both my television and my Betamax. It can sing a lullaby to my kids, toast two slices of bread, destroy a Horcrux and perform laser eye surgery.
My phone can double as a strobe light, personal flotation device or screwdriver, and it expands into a small Christmas tree, or a non-denominational shrubbery, during the holiday season.
It's fantastic, and completely unnecessary. But if a nearly grown man in his 40s can't resist the peer pressure to get one, what chance do kids have?
As the phones get smaller, more powerful and more versatile, they are becoming omnipresent among the younger set.
A decade ago, no one would have given a 7-year-old a cellphone. A popsicle? Sure. But not a cellphone. Now it's common to see an elementary school student with one. In high school, students without cellphones are openly mocked and ridiculed, the same way my generation mocked kids with glasses, generic sneakers and/or troublesome dandruff.
In the next decade, I fear that we'll have an entire generation that can only carry on conversations that consist of 140 or fewer characters, typed into their phone.
I will blame myself, and my smartphone.
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