I didn't get my first cellphone until 2005, which by that point made me quite the holdout for someone of my age. Before that point cellphones annoyed the hell out of me. I didn't want to become another one of those people, wandering around, yapping loudly and aimlessly away on my cellphone, ignoring the world around me.
But the world around me was changing. While I was a stick in the mud, the mud was being washed away from around me. Whenever I traveled (and I traveled a lot back then) it became harder and harder to find a payphone when I needed one. I had a clunky voicemail service for messages, but it barely worked and I couldn't find anything else that was affordable. But what was the last straw was the frequency of my moves coupled with the fact that most of the places I ended up moving to stopped having landlines. I didn't want to go through all the trouble of setting up a landline phone number, one that I'd end up footing the total bill for, no matter how many people also lived in the house. And when I moved, I'd have to go through the trouble of disconnecting the line and setting up yet another one at the new house. So I got a cellphone.
And like most new modern conveniences, I grew used to having one. While I'm not always fond of being reachable anywhere I go (and I still get around that by not always answering my phone, and keeping the ringer off), it is nice to be able to contact people wherever and whenever, without the hassle of looking for a phone. Though I resisted text messaging at first, it's the primary way I communicate via phone, as I don't actually have to exchange pleasantries and make small talk (which I never liked doing over the phone.) It still feels like I sold a bit of my soul in the process, though.
And now a smartphone, which constitutes even more soul-selling. I have been thinking about getting one for quite some time, as the iPod Touch has gotten me used to the idea of a small, hand-held information device. The three biggest motivators of the recent purchase:
- The death of my camera. I needed something...fast, and a smartphone delivers in that aspect. I will still end up getting a better camera, but it's nice to have something ready and available in my pocket that can take half-way decent pictures.
- April's friend works for our cell service provider so we can get the "Friends and Family" discount, 50% off regular service. This means I can pay as little as $25 a month for smartphone service, which is less than I pay for regular cellphone service!
- There was a big sale on smartphones, which allowed me to purchase a new one with the latest Android OS for under $100.
So now I'm a member of the club. It is extraordinarily useful to have a smartphone at hand. And I don't even have to imagine how useful it is for something like touring, as I used it on Thursday during my bike ride to consult the map.
Still, the Retro-Grouch in me is a bit conflicted. Part of me feels swept up in the never-ceasing River of Progress. This part feels like I have to do these things to not feel left out or behind. Part of me wishes I somehow managed to remain the stick in the mud, the iconoclast, the Luddite. This part remembers a time not too long ago (1997?) when the majority of folk didn't own mobile devices. When you called someone, it was their home phone, a landline. If they didn't answer, an answering machine picked up. And if you go back to 1987, many people still didn't have answering machines, so you just wouldn't get any answer, you just rang again some other time. No one was expected to be leashed to their phone. I'm still amazed that I know people who have held out and never owned a cellphone, even in 2012. It pisses me off that I can't even think about doing that now.
It's interesting to think of how society looks at these things. Thirty years ago in 1982 you would be the stick in the mud if you didn't own a car. Society wouldn't look kindly on you. I believe it was Margaret Thatcher who said "When I see someone over the age of 30 who does not own a car, I see a loser at life." Nowadays the same could be said* of someone who doesn't own a cellphone, or a computer, or a credit card. As a society we look at these people as losers, behind the times.
At least society has changed its perception on car ownership, somewhat.
And I've still managed to avoid Facebook.
*Please note I am not saying these things, I'm just observing what society in general thinks.