I have a dumb cell phone. The device in itself isn’t stupid. It just isn’t smart enough to suit some folks’ tastes. It can make and receive calls and texts, and even take an occasional photo, which is about all I need. I don’t want to read a book or watch a movie on it. I don’t want to surf the Web, keep my calendar, find my way, or respond to e-mails through it. That it rings distinctively for each member of my family when they call from their equally limited mobile units is plenty clever enough for me.
While I’m fine with my “dinophone,” everyone else on our family plan is pressuring me to join the latest revolution and get “smart.” They’re all feeling the pinch of not receiving immediate notifications when classes are cancelled, or missing out on on-line dialogs people assume they’re part of since — well, doesn’t everyone have a smartphone?
Although I’ll drag my Luddite feet as long as I can, I know ultimately resistance is futile. The phone company will pretty much insist. While they play nice and pretend it’s ok for us not to have a data plan, they’re also taking increasing pains to limit our non-smartphone options.
I understand cell providers are in business to make money. I further recognize there’s certainly nothing new about the practice of techno bullying. I’m willing to bet it’s Thomas Edison’s greatest invention of all. Subtly, slowly, it usually starts and ends with whittling away on the patience of the people who pay the bills by steadfastly targeting the weakest, youngest links in the chain.
How many households were able to hold out against installing a telephone in their kitchen once the American Teen was invented? And which of us who didn’t have a color tv until the early 1970s can ever forget feeling slightly inferior and culturally deprived every time that dang peacock popped up in glorious half tones on an antiquated black and white set, rubbing it in that the following program was filmed in “RCA color?”
I’m pretty sure the day the color console came into our living room our parents were the same kind of larger-than-life heroes my husband and I were a few Christmases ago when the bow draped, 48 inch, flat screen magically appeared. Our children’s excited squeals undoubtedly echoed my father’s and his sister’s yelps of delight when their parents replaced the old buggy with a second-hand Model A Ford.
Wall phones to wireless. Typewriters to iPads. Books to e-readers. Letters to Tweets. There’s no end to the perpetual merry-go-round of progress, revolving at exponentially escalating and dizzying speeds — and often costs.
It’s exhausting keeping up with what a lot of people try to convince me I simply can’t live without. I no sooner get used to one way of doing things than another “better” and invariably a more expensive mode comes along, and this old dog has yet more new tricks to learn.
In the end, after fighting the good fight I’ll surrender. Battered, bruised, and bullied, I’ll curse my weakness and yet another frustrating learning curve as I take one more small step further into the 21st Century — ready, willing, able — or not.
Woodsboro-based Susan Writer writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com and is one of The FNP’s Board of Contributors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.